Television advertising, not viewing, is associated with negative dietary patterns in children
Children's exposure to unhealthy food marketing is a contributor to poor diets and weight gain. Television food advertising, in particular, has been the focus of research and policy discussions.
We aimed to quantify the specific impact of television advertising, as distinct from television viewing generally, on children's usual diet. Methods Four hundred seventeen Australian children aged 10–16 participated in an online survey, which assessed television viewing habits and consumption of 12 frequently advertised unhealthy foods/drinks. Consumption of these foods/drinks was dichotomized (less weekly, weekly or more) and summed (1 point for each item consumed weekly or more) to give cumulative consumption scores.
After adjusting for age and socioeconomic status, there was strong evidence of an increase in unhealthy food score (P < 0.001), drink score (P = 0.002) and food/drink combined score (P < 0.001), with increasing commercial television viewing.
The link between television viewing and poor diet was strongest for children who watched the most commercial television, and those who were actually exposed to advertisements embedded within programs. This association between advertisement exposure and poor diet emphasizes the need for public policy intervention to reduce children's food advertising exposures.