Cereal companies should adopt -- and stick to -- sensible food marketing.
Cereal companies have been touting ready-to-eat breakfast cereal as one important solution for the nation's childhood obesity epidemic. At the same time, those companies are aggressively lobbying Congress and the Obama Administration to kill voluntary government guidelines for food marketing to children. The companies fear that such guidelines, even though non-binding, wouldn't endorse the marketing of Apple Jacks, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and other sugary products to young children.
Cereal companies contend that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and hype a link between eating breakfast and lower obesity rates. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans does list eating breakfast under the "principles for promoting calorie balance and weight management," and indicate that children who don't eat breakfast are more likely to be overweight. But does that mean that eating sugary cereal for breakfast puts a child on a path to a healthy weight?
Some observational studies have suggested that children who typically eat breakfast cereal are less likely to be overweight. However, this type of study cannot prove cause and effect, and most have been funded or conducted by the cereal industry. Other research indicates that sugary cereal eaters consume more calories and sugars, so it's likely that something else in cereal eaters' lifestyles explains their lower body weight.