TV ads promote junk food

Washington: Making food choices based on TV ads results in a very imbalanced diet, says a new study.

Investigators found that a 2,000-calorie diet comprising advertised foods would contain 25 times the recommended servings of sugars, 20 times the recommended servings of fat, but less than half of recommended servings of vegetables, dairy and fruits.

In fact, the excess sugar and fat is so much that, on average, eating just one of the observed food items would provide more than three times the recommended daily servings (RDS) for sugars and two-and-half times the RDS for fat for the entire day.

"The results of this study suggest the foods advertised on television tend to oversupply nutrients associated with chronic illness (eg. saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium) and undersupply nutrients that help protect against illness (eg. fibre, vitamins A, E, and D, calcium, and potassium)," according to lead investigator Michael Mink, assistant professor, Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU).

Researchers analysed 84 hours of primetime and 12 hours of Saturday morning broadcast TV over a 28-day period in 2004.

ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC were sampled on a rotating basis to develop a complete profile of each network.

The Saturday-morning cartoon segment (from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.) was included to capture food advertisements marketed primarily to children.

All 96 hours of observations were videotaped and reviewed later to identify food advertisements and specific food items being promoted.

Only food items that were clearly promoted for sale during an ad were recorded. Each food item was then analysed for nutritional content. Observed portion sizes were converted to the number of servings.

The average observed food item contained excessive servings of sugars, fat, and meat and inadequate servings of dairy, fruit and vegetables.

The situation was similar for essential nutrients, with the observed foods oversupplying eight nutrients: protein, selenium, sodium, niacin, total fat, saturated fat, thiamin and cholesterol.

These same foods undersupplied 12 nutrients: iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, carbohydrates, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, potassium, pantothenic acid, fiber, and vitamin D, said an AASU release.

These findings were published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.



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