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Health discourse in Swedish television food advertising during children's peak viewing times.

Journal article
Authors Hillevi Prell
Eva Palmblad
Lauren Lissner
Christina Berg
Published in Appetite
Volume 56
Issue 3
Pages 607-616
ISSN 0195-6663
Publication year 2011
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Department of Social Work
Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science
Pages 607-616
Language en
Keywords Domestic science and nutrition, NUTRITION & DIETETICS, JUNK FOOD, Fast food, Health, Child
Subject categories Public health medicine research areas


Food marketing influences children's food preferences and consumption and is important to consider in the prevention of child obesity. In this paper, health messages in commercials during children's peak viewing times were analysed by examining how food is articulated in the health discourse. In total, 82 food commercials from 66h of television recordings of the most popular commercial channels with children in Sweden (TV3, TV4 and Channel 5) were analysed with discourse theoretical tools according to Laclau and Mouffe and with a focus on rhetoric. Physical, mental and social health aspects were present in 71% of the commercials. Three health discourse types; a medical (food as protection and treatment), a hedonic (food as feeling good) and a social discourse type (food as caring) were discerned. In relation to these, the heart symbol, lifestyle associations and nature/the natural were elements that could be interpreted in different ways. Moreover, foods carrying unhealthy associations were promoted in the health discourse and presented as especially healthy by offensive rhetoric. The analysis raises awareness of the prevailing health messages in food marketing. Children and parents should be encouraged to develop their critical thinking about television food advertising and how it may influence social norms and dietary practices.

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