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Perceptions of Junk Food TV Ads Aimed at Kids Challenged

Few ads will be banned under U.K. rules restricting promotion of less healthy foods

MONDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- Television advertisements of particular appeal to children are no more likely to be promoting unhealthy foods than those that don't appeal to children, according to a study published online May 28 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Jean Adams, Ph.D., of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed four popular Canadian television channels and the three commercial terrestrial channels in the U.K. during one week in 2006 to assess what food advertisements would fall foul of stricter advertising regulations that would take effect in 2007.

The researchers looked at 2,315 food-related advertisements in Canada and 1,365 in the U.K., and found that between 52 and 61 percent were for food products classified as "less healthy"; between 5 and 11 percent of advertisements were of particular appeal to children; and approximately 5 percent of the advertisements would be banned under the new U.K. regulations. There were few differences between advertisements targeted or not targeted at children in terms of the nutritional content of the food they advertised, the investigators note.

"This challenges a common perception that food advertisements broadcast during children's TV are particularly unhealthy compared to advertisements broadcast at other times," the authors conclude. "In fact, the one consistent difference between advertisements that were and were not of particular appeal to children was a higher fiber density in foods described as of particular appeal to children."

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