Gasol Foundation’s research reveals the concerning impact of food and beverage advertising in Spanish youth

Guest article by Dr. Santi F. Gómez, Global Director of Research and Programs at the Gasol Foundation

10 years ago, Pau and Marc Gasol, professional basketball players and NBA champions, decided to focus their off-the-court commitment to work towards improving children’s health in Spain and the USA. Being aware of the dire situation of the childhood obesity pandemic worldwide, they created the Gasol Foundation to protect children’s right to develop their full potential thanks to a healthy lifestyle.

During this time, more than 100.000 children and their families have participated in the healthy initiatives led by Gasol Foundation, and the organization has contributed to generate relevant scientific evidence through research around children’s health. The latest example of this work is the “Advertising, food and children’s rights in Spain” report (in Spanish), published in July 2023, in partnership with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs of the Spanish Government.

The report highlights the concerning impact of food and beverages advertising aimed at children has in their nutritional choices, resulting in a more frequent consumption of unhealthy food products for those children more exposed to advertising. According to the report, 8 out of 10 children are unprotected from this content in Spain. 

Analyzing the data from the Childhood and Adolescence Opinion Barometer from UNICEF Spain 2020-2021 and Gasol Foundation’s PASOS 2022-2023 study, the results showcase a dangerous reality for Spanish children, especially those who receive an advertising impact from 3 or more different unhealthy products, as they are also consuming 30 minutes more of screens everyday. 

Specific food advertising also affects the frequency of consumption of unhealthy products, like fast food and salty snacks, because 40 % and 60 % of the population exposed to its advertising consume them more than 2 days per week, respectively. These percentages are a 13,3 and 17,3 points higher than the population not exposed to this advertising. Moreover, almost the 40 % of the population exposed to the advertising of energy drinks are consuming them usually when this percentage reaches less than the 20% of the population not exposed to. Another key finding of the report is the fact that some categories of products, such as sweets, are so highly consumed, both overall and from a frequency perspective, that advertising does not have a meaningful effect on children’s choice for this kind of products because they are fully introduced in the dietary pattern.  

Besides, the report has been able to study the amount of kilocalories (kcal) coming from unhealthy sources by children, finding a close relationship between the exposure to unhealthy food and beverage advertising and the number of kcal sourced from these products. Therefore, children with a higher exposure to advertising are consuming a mean of 370.000 more kcal from unhealthy foods over the period of 8 years from 8 to 16 years old.  

Sugar sources have also been studied, and the findings point to a clear direction: unhealthy advertising is related to a mean intake of 23 more kg of sugar over 8 years.  

Overall, Gasol Foundation’s “Advertising, food and children’s rights in Spain” report adds another layer of scientific evidence on the importance of regulating food and beverage advertising aimed at children, as a necessary tool to ensure their wellbeing and their chances to live a full and healthy life. 

Disclaimer: the opinions – including possible policy recommendations – expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EPHA. The mere appearance of the articles on the EPHA website does not mean an endorsement by EPHA. 

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