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TV ads market junk food to kids, new study finds

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- For young Americans, the "food landscape" in television advertising is packed with junk food, according to a new study.

The study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the first to explore the nutritional composition of foods advertised to children using Nutrition Facts labeling.

Nutrient-poor high-sugar foods candy, sweets and soft drinks dominate (nearly 44 percent) the foods advertised during the TV programs children ages 6 to 11 watch most, the analysis found. Convenience/fast foods made up 34.2 percent of the advertisements during the programs.

There are not yet any recommended daily values (RDVs) for sugar, but these two groups of foods "exceed the RDVs of fat, saturated fat and sodium, and fail to provide the RDVs of fiber and certain vitamins and minerals," said Kristen Harrison, the lead author of the study.

A 2,000-calorie-a-day diet of foods in the child-audience ads "would exceed the RDV for sodium and provide nearly a cup of sugar," said Harrison, a professor of speech communication at Illinois and an expert on media effects on children and adolescents.

"How many kids actually eat a diet like that, I can't say," she said. "But it's important to note that this is the nutritional composition of the diet being marketed to kids and their families, and research shows that the more they are exposed to such advertising, the more likely they are to buy the advertised foods. So, heavy TV viewers probably follow a diet more similar to the TV-advertised diet than do lighter viewers."

Given the food industry's heavy marketing of convenience/fast foods and other refined, high-calorie products, Harrison said, "It is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to maintain the moderation necessary to preserve their children's health."

Findings of the study appear in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health in an article titled "Nutritional C
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Contact: Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
andreal@uiuc.ed
217-333-2177
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
24-Aug-2005


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