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Health Commun. 2009 Oct;24(7):660-73. doi: 10.1080/10410230903242267.

Television viewing and unhealthy diet: implications for children and media interventions.

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Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-4369, USA.


The concern over increasing rates of obesity and associated health issues has led to calls for solutions to the potentially unhealthy influence of television and food advertising on children's diets. Research demonstrates that children's food preferences are acquired through learning processes, and that these preferences have long-lasting effects on diet. We examined food preferences and eating behaviors among college students, and assessed the relative influence of 2 potential contributors: parental communication and television experience. In line with previous studies with children, prior television experience continued to predict unhealthy food preferences and diet in early adulthood, and perceived taste had the most direct relationship to both healthy and unhealthy diets. In addition, both television experience and parenting factors independently influenced preferences and diet. These findings provide insights into the potential effectiveness of alternative media interventions to counteract the unhealthy influence of television on diet, including a) nutrition education; b) parental communication and media literacy education to teach children to defend against unwanted influence; and c) reduced exposure to unhealthy messages.

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