Public Health Nutrition

HOT TOPIC – Marketing of Foods

Television food advertising and the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity: a multicountry comparison

Janny M Gorisa1 p1 c1, Solveig Petersena2, Emmanuel Stamatakisa3 and J Lennert Veermana4

a1 School of Population Health, MPH Program (partially funded by Queensland Health), The University of Queensland, Herston, QLD, Australia

a2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Paediatrics, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

a3 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, National Institute for Health Research, University College London, London, UK

a4 School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Herston, QLD, Australia


Objective To estimate the contribution of television (TV) food advertising to the prevalence of obesity among 6–11-year-old children in Australia, Great Britain (England and Scotland only), Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and the United States.

Design Data from contemporary representative studies on the prevalence of childhood obesity and on TV food advertising exposure in the above countries were entered into a mathematical simulation model. Two different effect estimators were used to calculate the reduction in prevalence of overweight and obesity in the absence of TV food advertising in each country; one based on literature and one based on experts’ estimates.

Setting Six- to eleven-year-old children in six Western countries.

Results Estimates of the average exposure of children to TV food advertising range from 1·8 min/d in The Netherlands to 11·5 min/d in the United States. Its contribution to the prevalence of childhood obesity is estimated at 16 %–40 % in the United States, 10 %–28 % in Australia and Italy and 4 %–18 % in Great Britain, Sweden and The Netherlands.

Conclusions The contribution of TV advertising of foods and drinks to the prevalence of childhood obesity differs distinctly by country and is likely to be significant in some countries.

(Received April 07 2009)

(Accepted November 04 2009)

(Online publication December 17 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email

p1 Correspondence address: Queensland Health, Gold Coast Population Health Unit, PO Box 267, Southport, QLD 4215, Australia