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Originally published October 6 2010

TV food ads promote unhealthy eating habits

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A person who ate only products advertised on television could get an entire month's worth of sugar in a single day, according to a study conducted by researchers from Armstrong Atlantic State University in the Savannah, Ga., and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

"Just one advertised food item by itself will provide, on average, three times your daily recommended servings of sugar and two and half times your daily recommended servings of fat," said lead researcher Michael Mink.

The researchers recorded 84 hours of prime time broadcasts on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox over the course of 28 days, plus 12 hours of Saturday morning programming. In that time, more than 3,500 commercials were aired, over 600 of them for food products. In contrast, none of the 116 public service announcements aired concerned nutrition.

Researchers used a computer program to analyze the nutritional content of the more than 800 individual food items advertised, then constructed a 2,000 calorie diet of only these foods. This hypothetical diet was then compared with government dietary guidelines.

The TV diet provided 20 times the recommended amount of fat and 25 times the recommended amount of sugar, as well as too much protein, sodium, saturated and cholesterol. It provided too little in the way of fresh fruits and vegetables, resulting in only 55 percent of recommended calcium intake, 50 percent of recommended magnesium and insufficient levels of vitamin E, potassium and fiber.

"The thing that really struck us is that this is a double whammy," Mink said. "You're getting too many of the things that are associated with a higher risk of illness and too few of the nutrients that are associated with protecting us from illness. It's the worst combination."

The food industry spent more than $11 billion on television advertisements in 2004.

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