After viewing food commercials, are children are more likely to pick unhealthy foods from supermarket shelves or in eateries? Emma Boyland, from the University’s Kissileff Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior, said in the news release, TV food advertising increases children’s preference for unhealthy foods, “Obesity in young children is now a major health concern around the world. Our studies highlight that there are global connections between advertising, food preferences and consumption. This is a beyond-brand effect, increasing children’s selections of all unhealthy foods – not just those shown in advertisements.
“This study demonstrates that children are far more likely to eat unhealthy foods if they watch a lot of television. This suggests that it would be beneficial to reduce the amount of television that children watch. These findings also have implications for the regulation of television food advertising to children. A 9:00 p.m. watershed should be introduced so that children are not exposed to high fat, high sugar and high salt food advertising during popular family viewing.” The research is published in the journal Pediatrics.
In one study, all the children chose more branded and non-branded fat-rich and carbohydrate-rich items from the food preference lists compared with those they chose after viewing the toy adverts. The study also found that children who watched television for more than 21 hours a week were more likely to be affected by the food adverts than those children who watched a lesser amount of television.
These children also had a significantly greater body mass index than those who were less frequent viewers. Also check out the study, “Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children’s Taste Preferences,” Med Page Today or at the at the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, JAMA and Archives Journals,
How may young children’s taste preferences be influenced by fast-food branding?
You also may want to check out the August 6, 2007 news release regarding another, earlier 2007 study, “Young children’s taste preferences may be influenced by fast-food branding.” According to that study, preschool children preferred the taste of foods and drinks in McDonald’s packaging to the same foods and drinks in unbranded packaging, according to a report in the August 2007 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
“Food marketing to children is widespread. The food and beverage industries spend more than $10 billion per year to market to children in the United States,” according to background information in the article. By age 2, children may already have beliefs about certain brands and 2- to -6-year-olds can recognize brands and associate them with products.
In a study by Thomas N. Robinson, M.D., M.P.H., Stanford University School of Medicine, California, and colleagues, preschoolers age 3 to 5 tasted five pairs of identical foods and beverages in basic McDonald’s packaging and in matched but unbranded packaging. The foods and beverages were: one-quarter of a McDonald’s hamburger, a Chicken McNugget, McDonald’s French fries, about three ounces of 1 percent fat milk (or apple juice for one child who was not allowed to drink milk) and two baby carrots. Parents completed a questionnaire including their child’s race/ethnicity, age, exposure to McDonald’s food and toys and television viewing habits.
A total of 63 children completed the study and performed a total of 304 individual tasting comparisons. On average, children preferred the tastes of foods and drinks in the McDonald’s packaging over the same foods in unmarked packaging (48.3 percent vs. 36.7 percent for hamburgers, 59 percent vs. 18 percent for chicken nuggets, 76.7 percent vs. 13.3 percent for french fries, 61.3 percent vs. 21 percent for milk or apple juice and 54.1 percent vs. 23 percent for carrots).
A secondary analysis found that children preferred the tastes of foods and drinks that were thought to be from McDonald’s for four out of five comparisons. Preschoolers with more television sets in their homes and children who ate McDonald’s food more often were more likely to prefer foods and drinks they thought were from McDonald’s.
“These results add evidence to support recommendations to regulate or ban advertising or marketing of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages, or all marketing, that is directed to young children,” the authors write. “Our findings also suggest a need for research on marketing in general, and branding in particular, as strategies to promote more healthful taste preferences and food and beverage choices in young children.”
“Future research might examine the effects of less recognizable brands or contrast different brands and packaging with variable levels of recognition and natural exposure,” they conclude. Check out the study, Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children’s Taste Preferences – MedPage Today or at the at the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, JAMA and Archives Journals, 2007;161(8):792-797.
Teach your child what to look for in a food market, what’s healthiest, and where to find those foods, such as vegetables and fruits
Eighty-nine percent of children’s food products provide poor nutritional quality, according to a July 2008 study. But 62 percent of them still make health claims on packaging, reports the July 14, 2008 news release, “89 percent of children’s food products provide poor nutritional quality.”
The study notes that nine out of ten regular food items aimed specifically at children have a poor nutritional content – because of high levels of sugar, fat or sodium – according to a detailed study of 367 products published in the July 2008 issue of the UK-based journal Obesity Reviews. Also see the “Grocery Store Navigator” site to learn how to involve your children in a healthy nutrition lesson while grocery shopping in the food market.
Do 62 percent of supermarket-type foods actually have poor nutritional quality but make positive claims?
Just under 70 per cent of the products studied – which specifically excluded confectionery, soft drinks and bakery items – derived a high proportion of calories from sugar, according to the study’s news release, “89 percent of children’s food products provide poor nutritional quality.” Approximately one in five (23 per cent) had high fat levels and 17 per cent had high sodium levels. Despite this, 62 per cent of the foods with poor nutritional quality (PNQ) made positive claims about their nutritional value on the front of the packet.
“Children’s foods can now be found in virtually every section of the supermarket and are available for every eating experience” says Professor Charlene Elliott from the University of Calgary, Canada, and a Trustee of the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition, according to the July 14, 2008 news release, 89 percent of children’s food products provide poor nutritional quality. “Parents may have questions about which packaged foods are good for their children. Yet certain nutritional claims may add to the confusion, as they can mislead people into thinking the whole product is nutritious.”
Only 11 percent of the products evaluated provided good nutritional value based on criteria laid down by the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Only 11 per cent of the products Professor Elliott and her colleagues evaluated provided good nutritional value in line with the criteria laid down by the US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a non-profit agency that received the Food and Drug Administration’s highest honour in 2007.
The CSPI nutritional standards state that healthy food should not derive more than 35 per cent of its calories from fat (excluding nuts and seed and nut butters) and should have no more than 35 per cent added sugar by weight. They also provide guidance on sodium levels, ranging from 230mg per portion for snacks through to 770mg per portion for pre-prepared meals.
CSPI’s standards are adapted from those developed by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, a coalition of some 300 health and nutrition organisations in the USA. The organisation states that its standards represent a compromise approach. They allow for the marketing of products that may not be nutritionally ideal, but that provide some positive nutritional benefits that could help children meet the US Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The 367 products included in the study were bought from a national supermarket chain stocking 50,000 food and non-food items in December 2005. Each had to meet very specific criteria. “We included food products and packaging that were presented in such a way that children were the clear target audience” explains Professor Elliott in the news release. Professor Elliot’s research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “They included products that promoted fun and play, had a cartoon image on the front of the box or were linked to children’s films, TV programs and merchandise.” Each product was subjected to a 36-point analysis that included the nutritional content and how the packaging was designed to appeal to children and their parents.
Key findings included the following information:
- 63 per cent of all the products surveyed made some sort of nutritional claim, including 62 per of the products that could be classed as poorly nutritious, due to high levels of sugar or fat or sodium. A low percentage (eight per cent) carried some kind of nutrition mark or seal. Other claims included that products were low fat, a source of calcium, contained no artificial flavors or colors or provided a number of essential nutrients.
- Products with high sugar levels accounted for 70 per cent of the goods with PNQ. Despite this, 68 per cent included some sort of nutritional claim on the package, such as a source of whole grains, source of iron or low in fat. Cereals and fruit snacks were particularly likely to make nutritional claims and have high levels of sugar.
- Just under 23 per cent of the products had PNQ because of their high fat content. Yet 37 per cent had some sort of nutritional claim on the package. For example peanut butter mixed with chocolate claimed to be a “source of six essential nutrients” and a pizza product claimed to be a “source of calcium”.
- High sodium levels meant that 17 per cent of the products analyzed were classified as being of PNQ. Despite this, almost 34 per cent made some sort of nutritional claim on the package. Crackers and pizza products were among the worst offenders.
- A fifth of the products featured a cartoon image engaged in some sort of healthy physical activity on the front and a quarter showed these on the back or side of the box. Activities included skateboarding, basketball and biking.
“Assessing the levels of sugar in the selected food products was a methodological challenge, because milk sugars and fruit sugars occur naturally in foods” says Professor Elliott in the July 14, 2008 news release, 89 percent of children’s food products provide poor nutritional quality. “The Nutrition Facts label only displays total sugars and the quantity of added sugars is not always provided by the manufacturer. This means that the percentage of foods categorized as poorly nutritious due to high levels of sugar is higher than it would have been if information on naturally occurring sugars had been available.”
Separating figures for quantities of natural and added sugars
The problem of accurately separating figures for quantities of natural and added sugars in manufactured products has also been encountered by other researchers and acknowledged as an issue by CSPI, so it is not unique to this study. “Despite this, the findings still give us cause for concern” says Professor Elliott in the news release. “While caregivers are likely to purchase products that they hope their children will like, it clearly can result in a less nutritious diet than they may realize. Having a healthy diet is especially important given the current rates of childhood obesity.”
Excess body weight affects up to 35 per cent of children across Canada, the United States and Europe and is linked to a range of health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some forms of cancer. Overweight children can also suffer from psychological and social consequences because of their weight.
Professor Elliott believes that policy attention needs to be directed towards the nutritional claims made by products aimed at children and the images they use to sell the products. “If a parent sees a product that makes specific nutritional claims, they may assume that the whole product is nutritious and our study has shown that that is definitely not true in the vast majority of cases” concludes Professor Elliott, according to the news release. “Using cartoon characters engaged in sport can also create the illusion of a healthy product.”
Check out the article, “Assessing ‘fun foods’: nutritional content and analysis of supermarket foods targeted at children.” Elliott C. Obesity Reviews. 9.43, pp 368-377 (July 2008). Obesity Reviews is a bi-monthly publication that includes papers from all disciplines related to obesity. The official review journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, it is published by Wiley-Blackwell and has a 2007 impact factor of 7.821. www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/117981306/home
TV food advertising increases children’s preference for unhealthy foods, says another 2011 study
Also see the June 30, 2011 news release on another study, “TV food advertising increases children’s preference for unhealthy foods.” Researchers at the University of Liverpool have found that children who watch advertisements for unhealthy food on television are more likely to want to eat high-fat and high-sugar foods. The study by researchers in the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society examined the food preferences of a group of 281 children aged six to 13 years old from the North West of England.
The children were shown an episode of a popular cartoon before being shown it again two weeks later. In each case, the cartoon was preceded by five minutes of commercials – one set showing toy adverts and one showing mainly snacks and fast food. After each showing the children were given lists of various food items, both branded and unbranded, and asked what they would like to eat.