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Trends in the Nutritional Content of Television Food Advertisements Seen by Children in the United States

Powell LM, Schermbeck RM, Szczypka G, Chaloupka FJ, Braunschweig CL. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 165(12): 1078-86, 2011.

Objective: To examine trends in children's exposure to food-related advertising on television, by age, product category, and company.

Design: Nutritional content analysis using televisions ratings data for 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009 for children.

Setting: Annual age-specific televisions ratings data captured children's exposure to broadcast network, cable network, syndicated, and spot television food advertising from all (except Spanish-language) programming.

Participants: Children aged 2 to 5 and 6 to 11 years.

Main Exposure: Televisions ratings

Main Outcome Measures: Children's exposure to food-related advertising on television with nutritional assessments for food and beverage products for grams of saturated fat, sugar, and fiber, and milligrams of sodium.

Results: Children aged 2 to 5 and 6 to 11 years saw, respectively, on average, 10.9 and 12.7 food-related televisions advertisements daily in 2009, down 17.8% and 6.9% from 2003. Exposure to food and beverage products high in saturated fat, sugar, or sodium fell 37.9% and 27.7% but fast-food advertising exposure increased by 21.1% and 30.8% among 2 to 5 and 6 to 11 year olds, respectively, between 2003 and 2009. In 2009, 86% of ads seen by children were for products high in saturated fat, sugar, or sodium, down from 94% in 2003.

Conclusions: Exposure to unhealthy food and beverage product advertisements has fallen, whereas exposure to fast-food ads increased from 2003 to 2009. By 2009, there was not a substantial improvement in the nutritional content of food and beverage advertisements that continued to be advertised and viewed on television by US children.

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