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How ads for sugary cereals are putting children at risk of obesity and cancer

A study has found that TV ads for sugary cereal aired during children’s shows are worryingly effective, putting minors at major risk of obesity.

Many parents can attest that ads for products targeted at kids are, more often than not, obnoxious as hell.

But it seems being annoying is not their only trait. A recent study from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in the United States found kids are particularly vulnerable to ads promoting high-sugar cereals. If we take into consideration that excess sugar consumption can lead to obesity, which in turn, is a known risk factor for various types of cancer… well, the findings are a huge cause for concern.

The new study, titled “Exposure to Child-Directed TV Advertising and Preschoolers’ Intake of Advertised Cereals,” examined if the exposure to advertisements for ten brands of breakfast cereals had any real-life influence on the children’s intake of those specific products.

The study was conducted among a group of 624 preschool-aged children and their parents in New Hampshire across 2014 and 2015. Over one year, parents were tasked to complete a series of periodical surveys that accounted for their children’s exposure to TV commercials of high-sugar breakfast cereal.

Previous experimental studies have demonstrated that food ads affect the preferences and requests in children. Advertisements aimed towards children are so persuasive, it even incites kids to consume food in real time. Other studies have also shown a significant relation between children’s exposure to ads and the intake of said advertised products.

Despite all this research, the team of scientists behind this study – led by Jennifer Emond, PhD, member of the Cancer Control research program at Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center – still very little is known about the influence of food advertising on preschoolers’ diets in a natural setting outside the controlled conditions of a lab. Edmond’s study is the first of its kind.

“This naturalistic study demonstrates that child-directed high-sugar breakfast cereal TV advertising was prospectively associated with brand-specific high-sugar breakfast cereal intake among preschoolers,” concludes the paper.

Researchers found that advertising directed to children exerted a stronger and longer influence than previously thought, “highlighting limitations of current industry guidelines regarding the marketing of high-sugar foods to children under age 6 years.”

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

About the author

Filmmaker. 3D artist. Procrastination guru. I spend most of my time doing VFX work for my upcoming film Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi dystopia about robots, overpopulated cities and tyrant states. @iampineros

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