Frequency and Type of Food Messages on Television

By Sarah Colby, Ashley Person, Brittan Bibb, Kaitlyn Slavinsky and Kimberly Myers.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Objectives: The objective of this research was to document the frequency and type of food messages embedded in programming and commercials on primetime and special interest channels. Methods: Seventy-two hours of primetime television, Black Entertainment Television (BET), and Cartoon Network were recorded over a three-week period. Food messages were coded as “healthy” or “unhealthy” and by type of social norm messaging. Ninety-four different types of social norm messages were found. Results: There were 3,784 “unhealthy” and 1,175 “healthy” messages. Messages targeting youth more often observed non-nutrient dense food presented as being fun, consumption of excessive portion sizes and normal weight individuals eating non-nutrient dense foods than was observed in messages targeting adults. Overweight individuals in negative/funny situations were eight times as often observed on Cartoon Network and BET as on primetime television. Children may be exposed to almost twice the amount of “unhealthy” food messages per hour of television viewing than adults (88 per hour versus 45 per hour, respectively). Conclusions: Overall, most social norm messages associated with food seen on television promoted eating behaviors and attitudes that may be associated with the development of obesity.

Keywords: Television, Obesity

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 7, Issue 1, March 2017, pp.9-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 774.442KB).

Dr. Sarah Colby

Assistant Professor, Nutrition Department, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

Ashley Person

Graduate Student, Nutrition Department, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA

Brittan Bibb

Graduate Student, Nutrition Department, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA

Kaitlyn Slavinsky

Graduate Student, Nutrition Department, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA

Dr. Kimberly Myers

Associate Professor, Nutrition Department, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA