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Pediatr Obes. 2018 Apr;13(4):256-264. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12257. Epub 2017 Oct 27.

Teaching children about good health? Halo effects in child-directed advertisements for unhealthy food.

Author information

1
Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, University of Connecticut, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.
2
Yale/YHNN Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE), Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Food companies often use healthy lifestyle messages in child-directed advertising, raising public health concerns about health halo effects for nutrient-poor food/drinks.

OBJECTIVE:

Examine effects of health messages promoting nutrient-poor foods in child-directed advertising.

METHODS:

Randomized controlled experiment (N = 138). Children (7-11 years) viewed three child-friendly commercials in one of three conditions: (1) health halo (unfamiliar nutrient-poor food/drink ads with healthy messages); (2) nutrient-poor food/drink ads with other messages and (3) healthy food/drink ads. They rated the commercials and advertised products, provided attitudes about exercise and nutrition and consumed and rated healthy and unhealthy snack foods.

RESULTS:

Children in the health halo condition rated the advertised nutrient-poor products as significantly healthier compared with children in other conditions (p = .003), but the other commercials did not affect children's attitudes about other advertised products (p's > .50). Child age, gender or TV viewing habits did not significantly predict their ratings (p's > .18). There was no evidence that healthy lifestyle messages and/or healthy food commercials improved children's attitudes about nutrition, exercise or healthy snack consumption.

CONCLUSION:

Promoting healthy lifestyle messages in child-directed commercials for nutrient-poor food/drinks likely benefits brands by increasing products' perceived healthfulness, but these ads are unlikely to positively affect children's attitudes about health and nutrition.

KEYWORDS:

Food preferences; health promotion; nutrition; television advertising

PMID:
29076259
DOI:
10.1111/ijpo.12257
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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