Junk food ads undermine health benefits of kids sport

Junk food ads undermine health benefits of kids sport

Children who participate in organised sport are exposed to up to four hours of junk food advertising each week.

Dietician Dr Bridget Kelly, from UOW’s Early Start Research Institute, and her team surveyed almost 3500 parents about the amount of time their children spent playing popular sports. This data was combined with a survey of food marketing in NSW junior clubs.

Her team found that children who played outdoor cricket and rugby league had the most exposure to unhealthy food messages – between two to four hours each week – through marketing on uniforms, signage on the field, discount vouchers and other promotions.

The study, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, found 75 per cent of junior athletics, track and field and rugby league clubs and 42 per cent of cricket clubs in NSW are sponsored by food and drink manufacturers, such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola. Interestingly though, junk food promotion was virtually absent at swimming, tennis and martial arts clubs.

"It is deeply concerning to see such a high frequency of fast food and sugary drink sponsorship at local sports clubs," Dr Kelly recently told AAP.

"If we are serious about tackling Australia's childhood obesity epidemic, we need to limit children's exposure to these unhealthy messages, particularly in environments such as community sport."

Australia is now ranked 25th in global obesity and about one-quarter of Australian children overweight or obese.

Dr Kelly said that a number of studies indicate that children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing is a significant contributor to childhood obesity.

Media contact: Dr Bridget Kelly is available for interview. Please contact Elise Pitt Media & PR Officer, +61 2 4221 309, +61 422 959 953 or epitt@uow.edu.au.