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Exposure of children to television food advertisements: an observational analysis

02 February 2021
10 min read
Volume 2 · Issue 1

Abstract

Television advertisements are a powerful medium by which food companies can influence children's dietary choices. This study aimed to determine the current frequency and nutritional content of food and drink advertisements on popular television channels and ascertain whether this differed depending on the target age-group. In this study, television channels were classified by their stated target age-groups. A total of 96 hours of the most popular television channels from each age category were watched during children's peak viewing times, and food and drink advertisements were nutritionally analysed. Overall, 9.5% of advertisements observed were for food and drink. More food and drink advertisements (P<0.001) and those promoting high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) products (P<0.001) were broadcast on channels aimed towards older children. There is an ongoing exposure of children to HFSS products via both adult- and child-targeted television channels. Further efforts are required to limit this.

Two of the biggest health concerns regarding child health, worldwide, are dental caries and obesity (Carson et al, 2017). In the most recent UK Child Dental Health Survey, obvious tooth decay was apparent in the primary teeth of 46% of 8-year-olds, and in the permanent teeth of 46% of 15-year-olds (NHS, 2013). Over one-third of 12-year-olds reported that they were embarrassed to smile and laugh because of their teeth, and over half felt their day-to-day activities had been affected by tooth-related problems. Similarly, obesity has a considerable impact on quality of life and is associated with a wide range of medical conditions including type II diabetes, heart disease and cancers, which can have longstanding effects into adulthood (Bhadoria et al, 2015). While the determinants of these two diseases are multifactorial, lifestyle choices, such as unhealthy food selections and frequent snacking, are known to have a significant impact on the development of both (Lake and Townshend, 2006).

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