Advertising for unhealthy foods increases children's calorie intake

Measures against advertising for energy-rich foods called for

In most European countries, numerous children are far too fat. In this country too, more and more children and adolescents suffer from overweight or obesity. This is partly to blame for advertising high-energy foods. Experts say that traffic light labeling can promote healthier consumption.

More and more overweight children

Health experts say that an increasing number of overweight people are living in Germany. Many children and adolescents are also affected. The KiGGS study showed that every seventh child in Germany is too fat: over 15.4 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of three and 17 are overweight, and around 5.9 percent are even obese. Obesity can lead to diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes as early as adolescence. Experts believe that the problem must be tackled more rigorously. In particular, the advertising for high-energy food must be restricted more.

Advertising influences children's eating behavior

Scientific studies have shown that advertising has a massive impact on children's eating behavior and in many cases leads to obesity.

Online advertising for unhealthy foods in particular is viewed critically by experts.

As the Deutsche Diabetes Gesellschaft reports in a recent announcement, the German Alliance for Noncommunicable Diseases (THANKS) welcomes the request of the Conference of Consumer Protection Ministers to take action against advertising aimed at children for high-energy foods.

According to the experts, a recent study from Australia shows that children can consume measurably more calories per day with just a short advertising exposure.

"Politicians must finally protect children from this harmful influence," said DANK spokeswoman Barbara Bitzer.

Increased calorie consumption

In the experiment of the Universities of Sydney, Liverpool and Wollongong, a total of 160 children from a holiday camp were randomly divided into four groups.

Group 1 watched a 10-minute film every day with commercial breaks for unhealthy products such as breakfast cereal, a burger menu or chocolate cream.

Group 2 also played a short computer game with similar advertising. Groups 3 and 4 received the same intervention, but saw advertising for other products (non-food).

Then it was measured how much the children eat at breakfast and lunch as well as during a snack break directly after the film / game.

It was found that the children who saw advertisements for unhealthy products on TV and computer games ate an average of 46 kcal more per day than the children in the two control groups.

The effect was particularly pronounced in children who were already overweight - they even ate 95 kcal more.

Not even the advertised products were offered: the advertising apparently generally tempted the children to eat more.

If you offer the children exactly the advertised snack, the effect is even more dramatic, as a study from the USA with 60 preschool children showed. They consumed 30 percent more calories with snack advertising than without.

Malicious snack advertising

As the Diabetes Society writes, the studies confirmed the findings of many other studies with children who also noticed increased food consumption after advertising.

"There is sufficient scientific evidence to show how harmful snack advertising is for children," said Prof. Dr. med. Hans Hauner, CEO of the German Diabetes Foundation, "It is therefore not to be explained that we as a society still allow it."

DANK calls on the federal government to generally ban advertising for unhealthy products for children.

Compulsory traffic light system in Germany

Conversely, studies show that food consumption can also be positively influenced by more understandable nutritional information.

The experts therefore welcome the announcement by the manufacturer Danone that the five-stage traffic light system “Nutri-Score” will also be introduced in Germany from 2019.

Several studies in online and real supermarkets have shown that this improves the nutritional quality of the shopping cart by six to nine percent - even for people with low incomes.

"The results show that the current labeling in Germany, in small print and on the back of the packaging, is not sufficient," explains Bitzer, who is also the managing director of the Deutsche Diabetes Gesellschaft:

"Consumers have the right to more understandable information - then they also make healthier buying decisions."

DANK calls for a mandatory traffic light system in Germany. This is also recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), as is a ban on child-directed marketing for fattening products. (ad)

Author and source information

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