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Observational Study
, 56 (2), e35-e43

Exposure to Child-Directed TV Advertising and Preschoolers' Intake of Advertised Cereals

Observational Study

Exposure to Child-Directed TV Advertising and Preschoolers' Intake of Advertised Cereals

Jennifer A Emond et al. Am J Prev Med.


Introduction: Child-directed TV advertising is believed to influence children's diets, yet prospective studies in naturalistic settings are absent. This study examined if child-directed TV advertisement exposure for ten brands of high-sugar breakfast cereals was associated with children's intake of those brands prospectively.

Methods: Observational study of 624 preschool-age children and their parents conducted in New Hampshire, 2014-2015. Over 1 year, parents completed a baseline and six online follow-up surveys, one every 8 weeks. Children's exposure to high-sugar breakfast cereal TV advertisements was based on the network-specific TV programs children watched in the 7 days prior to each follow-up assessment, and parents reported children's intake of each advertised high-sugar breakfast cereal brand during that same 7-day period. Data were analyzed in 2017-2018.

Results: In the fully adjusted Poisson regression model accounting for repeated measures and brand-specific effects, children with high-sugar breakfast cereal advertisement exposure in the past 7 days (i.e., recent exposure; RR=1.34, 95% CI=1.04, 1.72), at any assessment in the past (RR=1.23, 95% CI=1.06, 1.42), or recent and past exposure (RR=1.37, 95% CI=1.15, 1.63) combined had an increased risk of brand-specific high-sugar breakfast cereal intake. Absolute risk difference of children's high-sugar breakfast cereal intake because of high-sugar breakfast cereal TV advertisement exposure varied by brand.

Conclusions: 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. Findings indicate that child-directed advertising influences begin earlier and last longer than previously demonstrated, highlighting limitations of current industry guidelines regarding the marketing of high-sugar foods to children under age 6 years.


Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Adjusted associations between SBC advertising exposure and SBC intake by brand.a

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