Childhood obesity and advertising

Much scientific evidence shows the great influence of advertising on the diet of minors, increasing child obesity.

Childhood obesity is one of the epidemics in developed countries and, what is even more worrying: the cases of obesity increase year after year among the smallest. If obesity was almost non-existent 30 years ago, today it affects 15% of minors in developed countries.

In recent years, various professional groups have linked childhood obesity and advertising. And there are many scientific evidences that demonstrate the great influence of advertising on the diet of minors. According to the medical journal The Lancet, which devoted an article to the obesity epidemic, where a very high number stands out, children receive 7,500 hits a year from messages telling them to consume products considered unhealthy.

Children’s advertising is not regulated, only self-controlled , therefore there is no regulation that prevents such actions from being carried out. If the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) were followed, ¾ parts of the ads should be removed, since 82% of those advertising processed foods, rich in refined sugars, salt and saturated fat, are destined for children, compared to 33% of advertising directed at the adult population about the same foods.

What does self-regulated advertising mean?

In our country, advertising is governed by self-regulation, that is, the government supports the self-regulation codes created by the food industry itself, without any legislation that controls them or requires that they comply with specific recommendations. It relies on the “good faith” of the sector to carry out a correct code of practice following guidelines that regulate the ethical content of marketing campaigns, but it does not monitor either the number of times the advertisements are broadcast or the nutritional quality of what is advertised .

The food industry excuses itself in that they do not force to buy their products, that people freely choose what they buy, although scientific evidence shows that people are greatly influenced by environmental factors such as price, mass distribution or intense advertising , among others.

And so why are children the target?

Children do not have the judgment to discern between what is appropriate and what is not. Also, they are very susceptible to what they like. It’s really easy to get their attention and draw them to a specific product; Just include bold colors, gifts, or printed pictures of your favorite characters.

Among adolescents, it is more effective to use public figures whom they admire or to associate the product with positive emotions. On other occasions, very positive nutritional properties are highlighted, such as, for example, “rich in vitamins and minerals”, to give it an aura of a healthy product, which makes parents believe that it is not such a bad product, when coincidentally it is products considered unhealthy.

Most common products used in children’s marketing

Sweets are usually one of the star foods: cookies, sugary breakfast cereals , pastries, ice cream and other dairy products, smoothies, cocoa, chocolate, sweets …

Another of the usual groups is the one that includes the so-called “fast food” or fast food, salty snacks, soft drinks, sugary drinks … In general, they are all foods rich in calories, of low nutritional quality, high in sugar, fat and salt.

Relationship television and childhood obesity

Several are the studies that show the direct relation between the hours in front of the television, computer or tablet, and the caloric intake. The more hours in front of this type of device, the greater the calorie intake and the greater weight. It is estimated that 1/3 of children who are overweight and obese would not be if they were not exposed to food advertising.

What should be done?

As long as the Spanish authorities do not take measures, we must even more protect children from this type of advertising with harmful consequences for health. These are the measures we can take:

  • Reducing the hours of television and internet reduces overweight and obesity.
  • Meals, when done with the family, are a good time to share and set an example. There are several studies that show that children who eat with relatives consume more fruits and vegetables than children who eat alone.
  • Promote the consumption of healthy foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish … and offer them in colorful, colorful and fun ways, easy to eat, to make them more palatable.
  • More market and less supermarket: in the markets we find less processed food and more real food, and avoiding exposure to processed foods reduces their consumption.
What you should know…
  • Children receive 7,500 hits a year from messages telling them to eat unhealthy products.
  • If the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) is followed, up to ¾ of the ads should be removed.
  • It’s really easy to get their attention and draw them to a specific product. Simply include bold colors, gifts, or printed pictures of your favorite characters.

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