The effects of the advertising of soft drinks and sugary drinks are being felt in the child population, according to experts. A few months ago, The Lancet published a document warning that no country in the world is protecting children’s health or their future. The report “A Future for the World” s Children? “, Prepared by a commission convened by the scientific publication itself, the WHO and Unicef, showed that children in some countries see up to 30,000 television commercials in a year. And it linked commercialization aggressive junk food and sugary drinks with the alarming increase in childhood obesity recalling a fact: the number of obese children and adolescents has multiplied by eleven from 1975 to 2016, going from 11 to 124 million. Spain is no exception to this situation. It ranks fourth among European countries in childhood obesity, according to the latest OECD report “The heavy burden of obesity.” And theAdvertising investment in beverages that are not considered healthy may be one of the culprits .It is one of the conclusions of a study led by Mireia Montaña, professor and researcher at the UOC’s Information and Communication Sciences Studies, in which the relationship between the nutritional values of soft drinks and sugary drinks is investigated and the advertising strategies used to attract consumers .
According to the research, in which UPF researcher Mònika Jiménez-Morales has also participated, advertising is one of the factors that greatly favors the obesogenic environment: Spanish children are exposed to an average of 9,000 advertising campaigns of television per year , and many of these ads feature products of little or no nutritional value. In addition, there has been an annual increase in advertising spending for soft drinks and sugary drinks in recent years, increasing from almost € 32 million in 2013 to more than € 53 million in 2018.As the research highlights, most of those millions of euros were destined precisely to products with lower nutritional value : of the advertising spending of the analyzed products, only 812,061 euros (0.3%) corresponded to products with a high nutritional value, while 62.7% of advertising spending was for beverages with a very low content of nutritional value . Judging by the results, advertising fulfilled its function , since the consumption of sugary drinks and soft drinks in the Spanish child population is high .
«It is estimated that 81% of Spanish children consume soft drinks and sugary drinks every week», Says Mireia Montaña, who is also a member of the UOC’s Research Gibraltar Email List Group on Learning, Media and Entertainment (GAME). A consumption that, as Professor Montaña recalls, is among the highest in Europe. «Approximately 7% of children under the age of nine consume them daily, 16% almost every day (between four and six days a week), 56% between one and three days a week and only 19% of minors he consumes them less than once a week, “he says.So is advertising ultimately responsible for Spanish children turning away more and more from healthy eating? “It is clear that there are several aspects that condition it, but advertising is one of the important ones”, responds Mireia Montaña.
“Even large brands like Coca-Cola drop in sales as soon as they stop broadcasting advertising campaigns,” says the UOC professor, who began to study how food advertising affects minors because many of them, especially those under eight years, “they consume it without understanding if they are seeing an informative or persuasive communication ,” he says.Language, the key to persuading As for the advertising strategies that companies use to attract consumers, language is key. As Professor Mireia Montaña explains, one of the main psychological aspects that influences obesity is that subjects attribute emotions or sensations to foods, especially those that are more caloric and of lower nutritional quality, creating a link . “For this reason we began to study what advertisements for food or sugary drinks say in their publicity speeches, especially those more aimed at children, as they are more vulnerable.