Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Beyond-brand effect of television food advertisements on food choice in children: the effects of weight status

Jason CG Halforda1 c1, Emma J Boylanda1, Georgina M Hughesa1, Leanne Staceya1, Sarah McKeana1 and Terence M Doveya1a2

a1 Kissileff Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behaviour, School of Psychology, Eleanor Rathbone Building, Bedford Street South, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZA, UK

a2 Department of Psychology, Staffordshire University, College Road, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 2DE, UK

Abstract

Objective To investigate the effect of television food advertising on children’s food intake, specifically whether childhood obesity is related to a greater susceptibility to food promotion.

Design The study was a within-subject, counterbalanced design. The children were tested on two occasions separated by two weeks. One condition involved the children viewing food advertisements followed by a cartoon, in the other condition the children viewed non-food adverts followed by the same cartoon. Following the cartoon, their food intake and choice was assessed in a standard paradigm.

Setting The study was conducted in Liverpool, UK.

Subjects Fifty-nine children (32 male, 27 female) aged 9–11 years were recruited from a UK school to participate in the study. Thirty-three children were normal-weight (NW), 15 overweight (OW) and 11 obese (OB).

Results Exposure to food adverts produced substantial and significant increases in energy intake in all children (P < 0·001). The increase in intake was largest in the obese children (P = 0·04). All children increased their consumption of high-fat and/or sweet energy-dense snacks in response to the adverts (P < 0·001). In the food advert condition, total intake and the intake of these specific snack items correlated with the children’s modified age- and gender-specific body mass index score.

Conclusions These data suggest that obese and overweight children are indeed more responsive to food promotion, which specifically stimulates the intake of energy-dense snacks.

(Received January 15 2007)

(Accepted September 09 2007)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email j.c.g.halford@liverpool.ac.uk

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