Teach children to ignore junk-food advertising, say experts

| 9th November 2009
Child in front of a television
A number of studies have made links between junk food advertising and rising levels of childhood obesity
Fruits, vegetables and juices were advertised in only 1.7 per cent of commercials on US children's TV, says study, but reducing junk-food advertising may not be enough

Children are being bombarded by junk food advertising according to a study of US television networks.

Researchers at the University of California-Davis found that children's networks exposed viewers to 76 per cent more food commercials per hour than other networks.

In addition, more than 70 per cent of those food commercials were for either fast-food restaurants, sugary food, chips/crackers or sugar-added beverages.

The researchers looked at 12 networks, both English and Spanish-speaking, at the prime viewing times for children of Saturday morning and weekday afternoons in their study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Junk adverts

They recorded an average of 7.7 food commercials per hour or one every 8 minutes.

In contrast, fruits, vegetables, and juices were advertised in only 1.7 per cent of the commercials.

Advertising on TV programming aimed at adolescents was even worse. Researchers said that 80 per cent of MTV food commercials were for fast food restaurants, sugar-added beverages, and sweets.

Nutrition adverts

The study authors said simply reducing the amount of junk food advertising may not be enough, and called for a focus on greater public nutritional awareness.

'Health educators need to develop and evaluate comprehensive nutrition programs that augment nutritional education with media use reduction strategies to lessen exposure to ads,' the authors wrote. 'Such literacy training can help children and adolescents understand both the economic motivations behind food advertising and the strategies used by industry to increase desire for their products.

'Greater awareness of the potential influence of industry may immunise young people from food advertising’s deleterious effects.'

Useful links
The California-Davis study

American junk food imports hit poor
Influx of high-fat and high-sugar foods into Central America has increased obesity levels
Behind the label: Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Soft Bake Bars
If you 'deskfast' with sugary, fat-filled cereal bars instead of eating a good breakfast you could be doing untold damage to your body and mind. By Pat Thomas
Behind the label: Flora Pro-Activ
Food is supposed to be good for you, which is why many people believe that functional foods such as cholesterol-lowering spreads are a ‘good thing’. But are they? Pat Thomas reports
Breastmilk vs 'formula' food
Humans have been breastfeeding for nearly half a million years. It’s only in the last 60 years that we have begun to give babies highly processed convenience food called ‘formula’. Pat Thomas investigates
Advertising to children
With childhood obesity becoming epidemic in the UK, should food advertising to children be allowed to continue?

More from this author