Nutrition: advertising doubles fast food consumption among children

Fast food advertising ban demanded - fatal influence on child nutrition

Overweight and obesity are no longer uncommon in children and there are serious life-long consequences. When looking for the causes, reference is usually made to a lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet with a lot of fast food. But where does the tendency to unhealthy food come from? A current study suggests that advertising for unhealthy products plays a crucial role here.

"Fast food advertising is even stronger than a healthy role model for parents," warn the "German Alliance for Noncommunicable Diseases" (THANKS) and the German Diabetes Association, referring to the new study results of a US research team. A ban on advertising for unhealthy food is therefore urgently needed. The study was published in the specialist magazine "Appetite".

624 children examined

As part of the long-term study, scientists from various US universities examined a total of 624 children between the ages of three and five and their families over a period of one year. In order to determine how much TV advertising for fast food the children saw, the researchers asked the parents what times their children were watching television and then compared this with the program recordings. The parents had to fill out a questionnaire every eight weeks.

Impact of television advertising determined

Not only was it recorded how much child-oriented fast food advertising (for McDonald's) the little ones had seen in children's programs, but the parents should also state “how often their child had eaten at McDonald's in the past week and whether they had eat fast food on a regular basis, ”said the joint announcement by the German Diabetes Association and DANK.

Fast food consumption partially doubled

"The results show that advertising can influence children even more than the good role model of the family," emphasizes Barbara Bitzer, THANKS spokeswoman and managing director of the German Diabetes Association. If the parents themselves rarely or never consume fast food, children who saw a lot of fast food advertising would have eaten fast food about twice as often as children without such advertising influence. Even though the parents regularly consumed fast food themselves, there was no difference in the advertising - the children ate fast food anyway.

Advertising counteracts nutritional efforts

"It is unacceptable that all efforts by parents and educators for healthy child nutrition will be nullified," summarizes Bitzer. Even little advertising increases the fast food frequency by 50 percent. The child's own desire for fast food is presumably decisive. Fast food advertising counteracts all efforts to teach children a healthy diet.

Advertising ban on unhealthy foods called

The German Diabetes Society and DANK have long held the position that advertising of unhealthy products aimed at children should be prohibited. “Industrial commitments have proven ineffective here. Therefore, only a ban helps to protect children from the harmful effects of advertising, ”said Bitzer. This is also recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an effective measure against overweight in children.

Self-regulation doesn't work

According to the information from the professional associations, several countries have already issued corresponding advertising bans (for example Norway and Sweden). Last year, the German conference of consumer protection ministers also made an appeal to the federal government to take action against advertising for unhealthy foods that target children. "Where self-regulation does not work, the legislator is obliged to take effective measures to protect children's health," said Bitzer.

"We expect Minister Klöckner to push ahead with a ban on advertising for unhealthy products aimed at children in the second half of the legislative period," emphasizes the managing director of the German Diabetes Association. The topic is mentioned in the National Ministry of Food's National Reduction Strategy, but only very vaguely. Since the development of nutritional skills only begins after the baby phase, it would be absurd to protect babies from unhealthy food like sugared teas, but older children no longer, explains Bitzer. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Jennifer A. Emond, et al .: Influence of child-targeted fast food TV advertising exposure on fast food intake: A longitudinal study of preschool-age children; in: Appetite, Volume 140, pages 134-141, September 2019,
  • Deutsche Diabetes Gesellschaft & Deutsche Allianz Noncommunicable Diseases (THANKS): Study: Advertising doubles fast food consumption among children (published November 22, 2019),

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