Teenage TV audiences and energy drink advertisements

Forty-six percent of energy drink ads aired on channels that likely appeal to teens, according to new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Philadelphia, PA, March 6, 2015

Researchers at Dartmouth College examined a database of television advertisements broadcast between March 2012 and February 2013 on 139 network and cable channels and found that more than 608 hours of advertisements for energy drinks were aired. Nearly half of those advertisements, 46.5%, appeared on networks with content themes likely to appeal to adolescents.

“Although our results do not support the idea that manufacturers intentionally target adolescents with their advertising, ads for energy drinks were primarily aired on channels with themes likely to appeal to adolescents, and adolescents are likely exposed to energy drink advertising via television,” said lead researcher Jennifer A. Emond, PhD, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

Energy drinks, including shots and drops, contain caffeine often at levels greater than traditional soda and other ingredients meant to stimulate energy. The caffeine content in these drinks can be as high as 200 mg per 16-oz serving. Although generally recognized as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration, high caffeine intake among adolescents has been linked to many adverse health effects, some of which could be quite serious for individuals with underlying health conditions.

In 2013, both the American Medical Association and the US Senate Commerce Committee supported banning the marketing of energy drinks to adolescents because of potential health risks related to adolescent consumption of high caffeine beverages.  Little quantitative research has been conducted to date to document the promotional practices of energy drink manufacturers on US television, which led to the Dartmouth study.

When analyzing the television advertising database, the researchers identified the 10 channels that devoted the most airtime to energy drink advertising. Six of the top 10 channels included adolescents as young as 12 years old in their primary target audience based on audience demographic data reported by a cable advertising trade group. The top network, MTV2, aired 2,959 minutes of energy drink advertisements (8.1% of all energy drink ad airtime); the proportion of 12- to 17-year-olds in MTV2's base audience was 398% greater than the average network audience in the United States.

Although this study focused solely on television advertisements and singled out data from the top 10 networks, the results are useful for nutrition educators and practitioners. In light of the rapidly expanding energy drink market and the high volume of advertisements across platforms, adolescents should be made aware of the potential dangers of energy drink consumption and advised about their potential health risks.

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Notes for editors 
“Patterns of Energy Drink Advertising Over US Television Networks,” by Jennifer A. Emond, PhD, James D. Sargent, MD, and Diane Gilbert-Diamond, ScD (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2014.11.005), Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 47, Issue 2 (March-April 2015), published by Elsevier. 

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732-238-3628or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Linda Kennedy, Norris Cotton Cancer Center Communications, at +1 603-653-3612 or Linda.S.Kennedy@dartmouth.edu.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (www.jneb.org)
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.

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