A TV Diet: A Nutritional No-No

Watching TV is already linked with several negative health outcomes, here’s one possible reason why.

A new study has found that if we were to base our diet entirely on foods in TV ads, we would be eating 25 times the recommended servings of sugars and 20 times the recommended servings of fat. Our diet would provide less than half of the recommended servings of vegetables, dairy, and fruits.

The study is published in this month’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association. You can read the abstract here.

The study analyzed food ads during 84 hours of primetime and 12 hours of Saturday morning shows over a 28-day period. The result was about 800 food ads. After analyzing the food’s nutritional content and serving size, researchers compared the food item to the recommended Daily Values (based on a 2,000 calorie daily diet) and the Food Guide Pyramid.

The average observed foods contained too many serving of sugars, fat, and meat and too few servings of dairy, fruit and vegetables. These foods also oversupplied 8 nutrients – including sodium, saturated fat, and thiamin – and undersupplied 12 nutrients, many of which are linked with heath benefits, including vitamins A, D, and E.

You may not knowingly base your diet on TV ads but media messages are powerful influencers of our eating behavior, suggest the authors. (By age 65, according to the study, the average person will have seen about 2 million ads on television, a lot of which are for food.)

The authors recommend several strategies to increase awareness and change. You could also watch a little less TV.

AICR’s expert report found that watching a lot of television probably increases the risk of overweight and obesity. And excess body fat causes seven types of cancer, along with several other health disorders.

Is there a food ad you find particularly bothersome? Or one that you love?