Kids See Fewer Ads for Sweets, More for Fast Food: Study

MONDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- American children are seeing fewer TV ads for candy and beverages, but more fast food commercials, finds a new study.

To assess the effect of a 2006 U.S. business-sponsored initiative aimed at reducing child-targeted ads for unhealthy foods and beverages, researchers analyzed TV ratings data for 2003, 2005 and 2007. Between 2003 and 2007, daily exposure to food commercials decreased by 13.7% among children ages 2 to 5 and 3.7% among children ages 6 to 11, but increased by 3.7% for youngsters ages 12 to 17.

The study, released online July 5, is published in the September print issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Exposure to ads for sweets decreased 41% for children ages 2 to 5, 29.3% for those ages 6 to 11 and 12.1% for those ages 12 to 17. Exposure to ads for beverages decreased 27% to 30% across all age groups, including a sharp drop in ads for previously heavily advertised sugar-sweetened beverages.

But the study found that exposure to fast food ads increased 4.7% for children ages 2 to 5, 12.2% for those ages 6 to 11, and 20.4% for those ages 12 to 17, according to a news release from the publisher.

The University of Illinois at Chicago researchers also identified a racial gap in children's exposure to TV ads. In 2007, black children saw 1.4 to 1.6 times more food ads per day than white children, and their rate of exposure to fast food ads was more than double that of their white peers.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, July 5, 2010