Shocking new research published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reveals that consuming only the foods most heavily advertised on television makes for an unhealthy diet.
All jokes aside, the details that the research provides about just how unhealthy a theoretical “all-TV” diet such as this would be, is still an interesting reminder that we all need to be mindful about what we put into our bodies.
Over a 28-day span, nearly 100 hours of television where analyzed. The 84-hour bulk of which was primetime. An additional 12 hours of Saturday morning television was also reviewed so as to include a better sampling of child-targeted food advertisements.
The investigators calculated the nutritional value of diets comprised entirely of foods that where directly advertised as for sale on TV. Any foods that may have been used as props – such as the food on a restaurant table in a romantic commercial for a jewelry store – where ignored.
What Did the Investigators Find?
On the surface, they found that the foods being pushed were disproportionately high in sugars, fats and meat. They were found to be equally lacking in fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Further investigation revealed a similarly lopsided distribution of essential vitamins and minerals.
The foods featured in the commercials sampled were laden with protein, sodium, niacin and cholesterol among other things. They were lacking in beneficial nutrients including iron, soluble fiber, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins D, A and E.
Long Term Effects & Solutions to Unhealthy advertising
Over the past few decades, obesity, heart disease, and other health concerns are directly related to making unbalanced dietary choices. This adds up to millions and millions of dollars wasted on both low-quality foods and avoidable medical treatment.
After careful analysis, the researchers behind the investigation conclude that a “3-pronged” approach to combating poor diet’s among consumers would be the ideal solution. First, they suggest the use of warning labels, similar to those found on alcohol and cigarettes, for foods that have an excessively unbalanced nutritional value. At the very least, adding warning labels to those foods which contain more than a full day’s supply of sugar or fat.
Second, they recommend launching public education campaigns designed to not only encourage healthier eating habits, but also to make consumers aware of the marketing tactics which are used to lure them into making poor dietary choices.
Third, they suggest that the public be directly involved with the establishment of a set of new dietary nutrition guidelines that more accurately reflect the needs and wants of modern, health-conscious consumers. In the meantime, most experts agree that small everyday changes such as habitually reading food labeling and pre-planning meals in advance are small, easy steps that can lead to a dramatic reduction in empty calorie intake and greatly improve overall health.
- Michael Mink, Alexandra Evans, Charity G. Moore, Kristine S. Calderon, Shannon Deger. Nutritional Imbalance Endorsed by Televised Food Advertisements. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009 September 11. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.020.
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