Obesity has been a public health issue in the United States for about fifty years and is now reported in all corners of the world. In the next twenty-five years, the rates of diabetes which are nearly all driven by diet, inactivity, and obesity are projected to increase by 37 percent in the United States, 76 percent in China, and 134 percent in India (Yach, Stuckler, and Brownell, 2006). The latest statistics suggest that obesity will soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States (Mokdad, SMarktroup, and Gerberding, 2004).
Even more frightening, like tobacco companies, the junk-food business has a very skillful and strong labor force to promote its products, including manipulating ingredients, targeting young children and producing misleading advertisements. Due to all these unethical practices, the government should regulate the sale, advertisement and distribution of junk food in order to protect human health. Bingeing on high-calorie foods can be as addictive as cocaine or nicotine, and could cause compulsive eating and obesity.
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The researchers showed that the pleasure-center in rats’ brains were over stimulated from the fast food similar to a drug addict’s cocaine binge. Eventually, the pleasure centers became so overloaded that rats needed more and more food to feel normal (Ahmed, Kenny, Koob, and Markou, 2002). Science thus far suggests that certain foods can create an addictive process, with underlying physiology similar to that seen with classic addictive substances.
If cocaine is considered an illegal drug and is strictly regulated by the government, then junk food should also be regulated in order to protect a person’s free will, rational judgment, and personal freedom of choice from being manipulated. At the same time, both the government and consumers should question the junk food industry’s practices and start to inquiry whether these industries intentionally manipulate their ingredients for their own benefit.
Marketing practices that promote calorie-dense, low-nutrient foods directly to children and adolescents present significant public health risks. It is important for the government to take action in regulating junk food advertisements in order to protect younger generations from the negative effects of junk food marketing. Since 1980, the number of overweight children has doubled; among adolescents the number has almost tripled. Today, among children, who are more than six years old, about nine million are obese (Alderman, Smith, Fried, and Daynard, 2007).
The junk food companies target on the child consumers who are already a huge consumption group to the market. These corporations try to infiltrate teen cultures and find out what appeals to teenagers in order to market their products more successfully. For instance, some fast food companies make their commercial activities in schools by giving out free food coupons. The obesity rate among the children is growing rapidly, and children are the major consumption group of fast food.
The government should enforce regulations and policies to limit the fast food advertisements to teenagers. Lastly, the government should take action to regulate the junk food distribution in order to provide an environment that encourages more healthy food choices. The goal of the government regulation would be to indirectly influence consumers’ diet choice by creating a social and legal climate in which the consumption of unhealthy foods becomes less desirable, less acceptable, and less accessible (Ashe et al. , 2007).
For example, in tobacco control, raising taxes on tobacco products and prohibiting smoking in most workplaces and public areas have dramatically decreased the number of smokers. In conclusion, the role of the government is to regulate public health, safety, and welfare. It is important to enforce laws and implement programs that address the consumption of junk food as being one of the leading causes of obesity in our nation. If the sale, advertisements and distribution of junk food were highly regulated then obesity rates across the nation, especially among teenagers will decrease and life expectancy increase.