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Teach children to ignore junk-food advertising, say experts

Ecologist

9th November, 2009

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

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