Food references in UK children's magazines - an oral health perspective
Chapman, Kate J.
Fairchild, Ruth M.
Morgan, Maria Z.
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Objective Children’s magazines are popular in the United Kingdom, but their content is poorly regulated. Consequently, food and beverages high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS), detrimental to oral and wider health, make unrestricted appearances. The study aim was to assess the amount of HFSS food and drink children are exposed to while reading magazines; with particular focus on foods containing free sugars due to their known cariogenic properties, and foods with low pH due to their erosive potential. Design Eleven of the most popular UK children’s magazines were selected and purchased at four separate time points in 2012. These 44 magazines were examined using content analysis; any references to food/beverages (in advertisements, free gifts, editorial and general content) were recorded. Results Of the 508 food references observed, 73.6% (374/508) were for foods detrimental to oral health owing to their high sugar and/or acid content. 5.9% (30/508) were considered ‘unhealthy’ due to their fat or salt content. 20.5% of references were for ‘healthy’ foods (104/508). The most common food categories referenced were baked goods (181/508) and sweets (86/508). Over a third (36.4%, 16/44) of magazines came with free sweets. In terms of positioning, the food/drink references were predominantly found in the general content of the magazines, including the editorial spreads. Direct advertisements for food/drink only accounted for 9.6% (36/374) of the total number of references counted. Conclusion Food references within children’s magazines are biased towards unhealthy foods especially those detrimental to oral health; these permeate throughout the general and editorial content and are not restricted to direct advertisements. Magazine editors, journalists and illustrators are responsible for the editorial and general content of magazines. Without regulation, subliminal placement of advertisements within editorial and general content leads to ‘advertorials’ which are known to confuse children and parents alike. This study concludes that regulation may therefore need to cover more than just the direct advertisements. Dental professionals need to be aware of current trends in children’s media when giving health education advice or designing health promotion initiatives.
British Dental Journal
Chapman, K.J., Fairchild, R.M. and Morgan, M.Z. (2014) 'Food references in UK children's magazines—an oral health perspective', British Dental Journal, 217(10), pp.E20.
This article was published in British Dental Journal on 21 November 2014 (online), available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2014.1007
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