New research has found that three-quarters of children in Canada are exposed to food and beverage ads on social media 111 times per week and most ads are for unhealthy foods. These are foods that are ultra-processed and are high in fat, salt or sugar. These foods have high calorie counts and depending on how much is eaten they can lead to overweight and obesity.
“There’s a wealth of research showing that food and beverage marketing has a strong impact on the foods that children prefer, what they request, what they’re eating,” says Lesley James, senior manager of policy at Heart & Stroke, which commissioned the study.”
Poor nutrition a leading cause of death
“We have skyrocketing rates of child obesity in Canada and around the world. In Canada, about a third of children and youth are overweight or obese. And young people get about half of their calories from ultra-processed foods in Canada,” says James.
“They’re not eating fresh whole fruits and vegetables and meals cooked from scratch. Unfortunately, it’s unhealthy foods that are heavily processed. And poor nutrition is now the leading cause of premature death in Canada. This has overtaken tobacco consumption.
“We need to address this soon because the unhealthy eating habits that start early tend to progress through to later in life.”
A law will soon be passed
The Canadian government is currently considering legislation to limit the marketing of food and beverages to children. James is confident the bill will be passed into law. Once it is, Heart & Stroke and other advocacy groups will start lobbying the government so that the regulations that will be developed to apply this law will vastly reduce the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.
Heart & Stroke’s Lesley James says food and beverage ads influence children to make unhealthy choices.Listen