Study Finds Food Ads for Poor Nutrition Are Targeting Parents

Most of the food advertisements in magazines targeting parents are for products that aren’t very nutritious. That’s the finding of a recent study that analyzed ads appearing in six different national parenting and family magazines. And it's ironic, considering the nation's ongoing childhood obesity epidemic and the parenting media's emphasis on the issue.


The study, by researchers with the University of Albany School of Public Health, looked at four issues of each of the magazines. In 476 food ads, which represented 32 percent of the ads in each magazine, snack food ads appeared most frequently (13 percent), followed by dairy products (7 percent).


Researchers found that the most frequently used ad message was “taste”; other common messages included “convenience,” “fun” and “helping families spend time together.” While some ads did make specific health claims or promoted foods as healthy, the researchers found that nearly 56 percent of the food products advertised were of poor nutritional quality, based on total fat, saturated fat, sodium, protein, sugar and fiber content. The study also found that ads for these products were slightly more likely to use sales themes such as “fun” and “no guilt.”


The researchers concluded that interventions should be developed to help parents understand nutritional information seen in food ads and to learn how various foods contribute to providing a balanced family diet.

”We recommend that parents carefully review nutrition labels for food purchases to obtain the information they need to make informed decisions about the foods they give their children," lead study author Jennifer Manganello, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management & Behavior in the University of Albany School of Public Health, said in a statement. The study appeared in a January 2013 issue of the journal Public Health Nutrition.

– Deirdre Wilson 

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01 Mar 2013