Commercial factors driving unhealthy diets: Study

Food availability, affordability and marketing can contribute to bad choices

Excess weight and unhealthy diets are among the top three contributors to Australia’s total disease burden. They come just after tobacco, which is the leading contributor according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

In a paper published recently in Public Health Research & Practice, a peer-reviewed journal of the Sax Institute, lead author Dr Alex Chung from Monash University’s Health and Social Care Unit argues that commercial factors play a major role.

“Commercial factors that influence food choices in Australia include food availability, affordability and marketing,” Dr Chung said.

“Children in particular are exposed to unhealthy food marketing every day – on television, via digital media, on billboards and public transport infrastructure, in stores and on product packaging. This marketing influences children’s attitudes and preferences around food and leads to increased consumption of marketed foods, and we know the majority of food marketing out there is for unhealthy food and drinks”, he said.

The researchers are calling for urgent action on this issue, and their paper outlines a number of ways that governments can reduce the harmful impact of commercial interests on people’s diets.

Photo credit: World Obesity Federation

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