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'Fruit' drinks high in sugar, online hype

31st October 2011

Marketing for fizzy drinks has expanded online, becoming much more prominent than before, according to a recent US study.

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Children and teenagers are especially exposed to such ads, and African-American and Latin American young people appear to be prime targets.

In 2010, teenagers heard 46% more radio ads for energy drinks than adults.

The researchers found that beverage manufacturers had created YouTube channels for 21 sugary drink brands, which had garnered nearly 230 million views this week.

The researchers also found that fruit-flavoured drinks, which are popular with teenagers and to some may seem like a healthier option, appeared to have as much added sugar as regular fizzy drinks like colas.

Just eight ounces of a sugary fruit drink contained seven teaspoons of sugar, the same as a full-calorie fizzy drink.

Study co-author Kelly Brownell, of the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, said that it appeared that fizzy drinks companies were marketing their products highly aggressively.

He said that children were being assaulted with advertisements for drinks high in sugar and low in nutrients.

The researchers found that rates of advertising exposure from fizzy drinks companies doubled for children and teenagers between 2008 and 2010.

African-American children saw between 80% and 90% more advertisements.

These new rates of advertisement exposure included twice as many ads for energy drinks and fruit-flavoured drinks.

Over the same two years, Spanish-language television channels also broadcasted 49% more advertisements.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 15% of children in the US are overweight or obese.

Children born today are also less likely to have long lives, meaning an increased burden of healthcare.

The researchers also found that companies stepped-up their marketing of so-called energy drinks, which include high levels of legal stimulants such as caffeine and taurine.

According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, such highly caffeinated drinks are not appropriate for children and adolescents.

Brownell said that, while there had been a lot of research marketing unhealthy food to children, the recent study was the first to analyse data from several large advertising firms, to get a bigger picture of the way companies marketed and advertised themselves to young people.

He said he felt it was important for people to consider the way children interacted with brands online, especially since children logged more time online than they did watching commercial breaks on television.

 

 

 

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