Television Ads Promote Foods that Lead to Chronic Illness
Television food advertisements have been analyzed and found to promote foods that lead to an unbalanced diet that can also lead to chronic illness. Researchers investigating food ads say a typical 2000 calorie diet as seen on television would provide 25 times the recommended amount of sugar and 20 times the amount of fat, with little focus on fruits, dairy products and vegetables. The conclusion is that prime time TV ads endorse extremely unhealthy amounts of fat and sugar and not enough foods with disease fighting nutrients.
Lead investigator of a study, Michael Mink, PhD, Assistant Professor and MPH Program Coordinator at Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, GA says, "The results of this study suggest the foods advertised on television tend to oversupply nutrients associated with chronic illness.” He adds that television food advertisements “undersupply nutrients that help protect against illness, citing high levels of saturated fats, sodium and cholesterol and not food with fiber and vitamins.
In 2004, the researchers analyzed television food ads for 12 hours on Saturday morning and 84 hours of primetime TV advertisements over a period of 28 days. Network sampling included Fox, NBC, ABC and CBS to obtain a complete profile of the nutritional choices presented. The investigators also include food ads run from 8am to 11am during cartoon segments that target children. Next, food for sale was reviewed, converted to serving sizes and analyzed for nutrition.
The results showed that television ads heavily promote foods with protein, selenium, sodium, niacin, total fat, saturated fat, thiamin and cholesterol but fall short when it comes to advocating foods with iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, carbohydrates, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, potassium, pantothenic acid, fiber and vitamin D that are essential nutrients necessary to prevent disease.
The researchers suggest food disclaimers like the kind seen on television drug ads that promote directly to consumers. "First, the public should be informed about the nature and extent of the bias in televised food advertisements.” They also suggest that consumers should be educated about which foods provide too much of a bad thing – like sugar and fat – and which foods fall short when it comes to nutrition.
Other suggestions to protect the public from television advertisements endorsing foods that could lead to chronic diseases include interactive websites that test consumer’s nutritional knowledge. The authors say, “This type of game-based approach would likely appeal to youth and adults. Third, the public should be directed to established nutritional guidelines and other credible resources for making healthful food choices.” The researchers found that current food advertisements endorse consuming 2,080 percent of the recommended daily servings for fat and 2,560 percent of the recommended daily servings for sugars.