Food advertisement influences food decision making and not nutritional status: a study among university students in Ghana

BMC Nutr. 2022 Aug 1;8(1):72. doi: 10.1186/s40795-022-00571-2.


Background: Consumers are exposed to a wide range of advertisements through different channels daily, which tends to have an influence on their food decision making. The aim of this study was to evaluate the different forms of food advertisements students are exposed to on campus and how they influence their food choices and nutritional status.

Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted to find out the influence of different forms of food advertisements on students' food choices and nutritional status. A self-reported semi-structured questionnaire was used to elicit responses from 367 students. About 51.5% of the students were females and 48.5% males. Body Mass index (BMI) was derived from weight and height measured according to standard procedures. Data was analysed and presented as frequencies and percentages. Chi-square was used to determine association between categorical variables (socio-demographic characteristics, food choices and nutritional status).

Results: The students reported 'use of internet' (58.9%) as the main source of food advertisement on campus, followed by television (21.0%). A large number of students (74.9%) were affirmative about food advertisements influencing their food decision making. Those with poor nutritional status (underweight, overweight and obese) were more likely to patronize sugar sweetened beverages (10.1%) as compared to fruits and vegetables (1.4%). There was statistical significance (p = 0.003) for type of food patronized due to advertisement and the source of advertisement. However, there was no statistical significance (p = 0.832) for type of food patronized due to advertisement and BMI of students.

Conclusion: Owing to the increased patronage of internet and television as channels of food advertisements by students, policy makers should prioritize the designing and implementation of intervention programmes through these channels that would influence healthy food decision making and promote consumption of nutrient rich foods. As this population has high self-reported advertisements' influence on food choices, it is vital to investigate further the influence of contextual cues such as environment and advertisement on their eating habits and dietary patterns.

Keywords: Body mass index; Food advertisement; Food decision making; Ghana; Internet; Students; Television.