Young children are more likely to demand specific sugary cereals for breakfast when they’ve seen television ads for these products, a new study from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire suggests.
Advertising aimed directly at kids has long been linked to an increased risk that children will make unhealthy food choices and press their parents to buy them more processed, sugary, and calorie-loaded foods at the store, previous research has found.
For the current study, researchers surveyed parents of 624 preschool-age children (ages 3 to 5) every eight weeks for a year to see what network television shows kids watched and how often they ate breakfast cereals promoted in ads during these programs.
The study focused on 10 cereals: Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cocoa Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Fruity Pebbles, Honey-Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Reese’s Puffs and Trix.
Children who saw ads for specific sugary cereals in the past week, as well as at any time during the study period, were 37 per cent more likely to eat those cereals than kids who didn’t see the ads at all.
Parents may not be aware of how much advertising can influence what kids demand for breakfast. It’s likely that children see TV ads for these cereals and then ask their parents to buy the advertised brands.
Parents may be able to limit this influence by switching to ad-free programming for kids, the researchers advised.
Sugar content of cereals
The cereals in the study had the most sugar among brands advertised to children, with about 9 to 12 grams of added sugar per ounce. That translates to more than 28 grams (7 teaspoons worth) per serving, exceeding the maximum amount of daily recommended sugar intake for kids.
Among other things, consuming too much sugar in childhood is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, obesity and certain behavior and emotional problems.
Sugary cereals are only one of many high-sugar products that children will eat in a day.
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