• If your child watches TV, they are more likely to see an ad for junk food than for healthy food.
  • It gets worse during school holidays, as children will be targeted with even more unhealthy food ads than usual.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 — Children in Malaysia are more likely to see advertisements for fast food and sugary drinks when watching television, especially during school holidays, a study has found.

For example, on average, you might see 1.93 ads for unhealthy foods per hour per channel during normal days or schooling days, but even more of such ads during school holidays (3.53 per hour per channel). The study said the jump was due to an increase by almost three times of ads for sugar-sweetened drinks during school holidays.

The study was based on 11 TV channels popular with children in Malaysia from 2012 to 2013 and its findings was published in 2014 as the paper “Obesogenic Television Food Advertising to Children in Malaysia: Sociocultural Variations”.

During peak viewing times (PVT) or when more children are likely to be watching TV, the rate of unhealthy food advertising is the highest, at 4.53 such ads per hour during school holidays, and at 2.62 per hour during schooling days, the study found.

On the other hand, the rate of healthy food advertising during PVT was only 0.44 (school holidays) and 0.81 ads per hour (normal days or schooling days).

“This means during children’s PVT, there were three unhealthy foods shown during normal days and 10 during school holidays for every one healthy food advertisement shown,” a Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) discussion paper titled “Unhealthy but not by Choice: Food Environment and Nutrition Inequalities” and released late last month said of the 2014 findings.

The KRI discussion paper pointed out that with children spending considerable time watching TV and using the internet, unhealthy food advertisements could negatively influence what food they prefer and eat and lead to malnutrition problems like becoming overweight or obese.

The KRI paper also said more research is needed on various topics, including the rate and impact of unhealthy food marketing on digital media, in order for the government to make more effective policies to address malnutrition.

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