Nutrition education intervention helps consumers mitigate the impact of advertising, particularly for sugar-sweetened beverages

Adults in behavioral interventions can meaningfully engage with media production activities, like modifying advertising slogans and creating truthful nutrition labels, which have been shown to help demystify media messages, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Philadelphia, February 7, 2018

It is well established that marketing efforts such as advertising are among the factors that can negatively affect health behaviors. Media literacy education can lessen this impact by developing an individual’s skills to critically evaluate marketing and advertising messages. Yet, media literacy education strategies and their implementation processes are relatively understudied. A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that simple forms of media production can be a feasible activity in a behavioral intervention targeting adults.

“Improving the media literacy of adults around highly advertised foods and beverages is an important need,” said lead author Kathleen Porter, PhD, RD, Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Virginia. “Understanding how to effectively implement media education literacy strategies is important for nutrition education interventions since these strategies are rarely used in interventions for adults.”

Study participants were enrolled in a six-month SIPsmartER intervention to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Media production was incorporated as a 20-minute activity within a larger intervention during which participants could individually produce two types of counter-ads: slogan modification and truthful label. Slogan modification involved replacing a key word from a well know sugar-sweetened beverage slogan with a new word that better reflected reality of beverage consumption. The truthful labeling activity involved creating a new label for a sugar-sweetened beverage that included information normally missing such as the health risks associated with high intake of sugary drinks.

Two examples of participant media productions.

After analysis of participants’ counter-ads, health risks, particularly weight gain/obesity, were the most frequently used content. No counter-ads included health benefits. In addition to incorporating class content, participants used their own thoughts in the counter-ad content. Over half of the ads used content not discussed in class such as how acid in soda can hurt the digestive system. All nutrition facts in counter-ads were accurate although some of the stated health risks were inaccurate. Compared with slogan modification, truthful labels were more likely to include nutrition facts. The majority of counter-ads were meant to be persuasive for drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.

“Production rates, persuasiveness, content, and design of the counter-ads did not vary by health literacy level,” reported Dr. Porter. “This suggests that media production could be part of a universal health literacy approach.”

This study extends what is known about incorporating media literacy techniques, particularly counter-ad production, into behavioral interventions. This is particularly useful for nutrition educators working with populations served by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–Education and the Extended Food and Nutrition Education Program, who may be more likely to consume unhealthy and highly advertised foods and beverages, such as sugar-sweetened beverages. Future research should address participant acceptance of media production and how media production affects behavioral outcomes.


Notes for editors
The article is “Implementation of Media Production Activities in an Intervention Designed to Reduce Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake Among Adults,” by Kathleen Porter, PhD, RD; Yvonnes Chen, PhD; Hannah Lane, PhD, MPH; and Jamie Zoellner, PhD, RD ( It appears in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 50, issue 2 (February 2018) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732-238-3628 or to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Kathleen Porter, Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Virginia,

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Kathleen Porter is located at Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB)
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.

Media contact
Eileen Leahy
+1 732-238-3628