Watch What You Watch

PRIME-TIME TV MAY BE PACKING ON THE POUNDS FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS

FROM JUNK-FOOD COMMERCIALS TO obese actors, black prime-time television may be saturated with images of fat. In fact, one new study shows that black television stations broadcast 60 percent more prime-time food and beverage commercials than do other networks, with junk foods, such as candy and soda, accounting for 43 percent of those ads.

And the difference extends beyond commercials, according to researchers at the University of Chicago's Children's Hospital, who compared four of the top comedies on black television and general prime time. Twenty-seven percent of the actors on black networks were overweight, compared with only 2 percent of their counterparts in general prime time. Black programs also featured more food and drink items than did general networks.

The study, presented recently at a Pediatric Academic Society meeting, reflects researchers' concerns that blacks weigh more and watch more television (75 hours verses 53 hours a week) than do non-African-Americans. According to Anjali Jain, M.D., a pediatrician at the hospital and senior author of the study, blacks make up 60 percent of America's overweight population. Jain's findings suggest that the sight of obese actors snacking on high-fat foods may cut both ways, helping to decrease stigma against the overweight but at the same time tacitly endorsing obesity among African-Americans.

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