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Advertising could favor childhood obesity

Advertising could favor childhood obesity

July 14, 2024

Health policies are increasingly focused on prevention so that afterwards it does not have to be cured. This is what explains, for example, awareness campaigns against smoking and in favor of responsible driving. However, it is also logical to think that, just as propaganda can be used to change habits for the better, the opposite can also happen.

Obese children: what role does advertising play?

And, like many cultural products such as video games or music are frequently accused (unfounded) of inducing unwanted behavior , the idea that advertising affects us in aspects that go beyond our buying preferences does not seem far-fetched. Could it be that advertising spots modified our way of being and that they did it for the worse?


A recent study indicates that this may be happening with the influence that advertisements for unhealthy industrial foods have over children.

What does the research consist of?

The research from which this conclusion has been drawn is a meta-study made from the analysis of the data obtained by 18 studies already published. The team that promoted the study wanted to obtain a global view of the results that other scientists reached in order to know if the advertisements for unhealthy food modify the consumption habits of children and adults and thus allow a basis for implementing certain regulations on advertising in case there is unwanted influence.


In this way, all the experimental design studies that were selected for the meta-analysis had to do with the relationship between exposure to advertisements for industrial food and food consumption. In this way, Samples of children and adults exposed to advertising about this type of food were used , data were collected on the amount of food they ate, and these data were compared with those of individuals who were not made to see this advertising.

The results

The data obtained show that this type of advertising does have a significant effect , although small or moderate, in the amount of food that boys and girls eat, while the same does not seem to happen with the adult population.

This reinforces the idea that occasional exposure to food advertising induces children to eat more food, which can have social and political implications.


Do these conclusions make sense?

Actually, yes. Younger people are especially prone to be influenced by all kinds of stimuli , and this is reflected very well in the way in which they imitate and adopt habits that they see in other people or in fashionable trends. In addition, although the ads are designed to buy a specific product, this does not mean that they can not have a spectrum of possible effects much wider than the simple purchase of a single brand, so that minors try to meet the needs on which they emphasize the announcements through all types of behaviors related (but not equal) to those seen in advertising.

The effects of this do not have an impact on the sales volume of the companies concerned, but they do have an impact on the lives of young people and on public health systems. Regulating more by putting more control on what is shown in this type of advertising can be complicated, but in the light of these data is a path that could be worth undertaking, taking into account the ubiquitous of advertising not only in the television but also on the Internet, a space in which the youngest are developed like fish in the water.


Marketing food to children | Anna Lappe | TEDxManhattan (July 2024).


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