Number of Ads for Unhealthy Foods, Beverages on Spanish-Language Channels May Contribute to Obesity Among Hispanic Children, Study Finds
Spanish-language television commercials for foods and beverages with little nutritional value might be contributing to obesity rates among Hispanic children in the U.S., according to a study published online Tuesday by the Journal of Pediatrics, Reuters reports. Nearly half of all food commercials the study examined advertised fast food, and more than half of drink commercials advertised beverages with high sugar contents.
For the study, lead author Darcy Thompson, a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins Children Center, and colleagues reviewed 60 hours of programming airing from 3 p.m. through 9 p.m. on Univision and Telemundo, the two largest Spanish-language channels in the U.S. (Fox, Reuters, 2/19). Of the 989 product advertisements that aired during the study period, 15% were for food or beverages, an average of about 2.5 food or drink ads per hour. Most of the food and drink ads were oriented toward adults, though 29% were oriented toward both children and adults, and 2% were oriented specifically toward children, the study found.
Researchers said the number of ads for a pediatric nutritional supplement, which accounted for 12% of drink commercials, was a surprise. According to the study, "The ad campaign appeals to a common concern of some Latino families that their normal-to-overweight preschool child isn't eating enough, 'no come nada,' even though their child's eating habits are typical and age-appropriate."
Thompson said that the ad content was similar to that during English-language programs but that the findings were more significant for Hispanics because they have the highest rate of children who are overweight and at risk for being overweight of any racial or ethnic group (Phend, MedPage Today, 2/20). About 30% of Hispanic children in the U.S. are overweight, compared with 25% of white children, according to government estimates.
"While we cannot blame overweight and obesity solely on TV commercials, there is solid evidence that children exposed to such messages tend to have unhealthy diets and to be overweight," Thompson said (Reuters, 2/19).
She added, "Pediatricians and providers for Latino children need to consider TV viewing when they are talking" about children's weight with parents (MedPage Today, 2/20).
An abstract of the study is available online.