The extent and nature of "health messages" in magazine food advertising in Australia
Objective: To quantify the extent and nature of healthy eating messages Australian consumers are currently exposed to through magazine advertising.
Method: Analysis of healthy eating messages in advertisements found in the top 30 Australian magazines between January and June 2005 was conducted. Advertisements were analysed and classified by source, subject, food category, food type, food occasion, type of claim and disease type.
Results: A total of 1,040 advertisements were identified which contained a healthy eating message; after removing duplicates, 390 advertisements were analysed. Culinary and womens magazines contained the greatest number of healthy eating messages. The most frequently occurring food category utilising a health message in an advertisement was dairy and dairy substitutes (71/390), closely followed by fruit and fruit juice (70/390). Overall, 31 advertisements referred to a specific disease, health problem, or risk factor and the most commonly mentioned were heart disease/heart-attack (12) cancer (seven) and diabetes (five).
Conclusions: Majority of healthy eating messages currently advertised are by manufacturers, double that of retailers, with non-commercial sources representing only 2%. Processed foods were the most commonly advertised food form which contained a healthy eating message, this is of concern given the generally low nutritional value of these foods. Overall, there are a large number of advertisements in Australian magazines that contain healthy eating messages that may have the potential to communicate to consumers that there are health benefits associated with the consumption of certain foods.
Implications: Future research to assess the accuracy of the information in such advertisements, and to examine consumer interpretations of these health message are important.