Responsiveness to healthy television (tv) food advertisements/commercials is only evident in children under the age of seven with low food neophobia.
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Exposure to television advertisements for unhealthy foods has been shown to subsequently increase the amount of snack food consumed in children between the ages of five and eleven. However, it has yet to be elucidated whether healthy food television advertisements have a different effect on subsequent food intake in children. The current study explored the role of food neophobia in ‘responsiveness’ to food adverts in children between the ages of five and seven. Sixty-six children were exposed to unhealthy food adverts, healthy food adverts and toy adverts embedded into a cartoon in a counterbalanced order on three different occasions. Following the cartoon, children were offered a snack consisting of six food items (chocolate, jelly sweets, potato crisps, Snack-a-Jacks, green seedless grapes and carrot sticks). Food advert exposure, irrespective of content (either unhealthy or healthy food items), increased food intake by 47kcal (11%) in high food neophobic children. Children who scored lower on the food neophobia scale ate significantly more (63kcal, 14%) following the unhealthy food adverts only. In the healthy advert condition low food neophobic children consumed less chocolate (p=0.003) but did not increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables. Presentation of healthy foods does not alter food preferences in the short-term. Children with low levels of food neophobia appear to respond to healthy food messages but children with higher levels of food neophobia do not. Instead, high food neophobic children will continue to consume more chocolate following exposure to food adverts irrespective of the healthy or unhealthy message they contain.