Last week a group of UP dental students (Bun Hy, Dy Sovannara, and Dok Sovanpheara) defended their thesis on the topic “TV Advertising of Sugary Foods and Drinks to Cambodian Children”. The study involved analyzing the advertisements on three TV stations popular with children over a one-week period. The key findings of the study included:

  1. Sugary foods and drinks were heavily advertised on TV during viewing times popular with children. Between 8% and 55% of all advertisements observed were for sweet drinks and snacks (depending on the channel). There were between 3 and 4 sugary advertisements per hour.
  2. Sugary drinks were far more frequently advertised than sugary foods. 73% of the drinks advertised were soft drinks and energy drinks and many were associated with having fun, prizes and sports.
  3. There were almost no advertisements for healthy foods and drinks.
  4. Most of the advertisements were for products produced by multinational companies (79%), rather than by local Cambodian companies.

Based on the findings of their study they made the following recommendations:

  1. Cambodia’s TV channels should follow WHO recommendations on limitation of the sale and promotion of unhealthy products to children.
  2. The government should restrict the advertising of unhealthy sweet- and fat-rich foods and drinks to children.
  3. TV companies and food/drink manufacturers should reduce the advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks on TV.
  4. The results of this study should be brought to the attention of the health authorities, food and drink companies, TV stations and the public.

This study is just one of a many studies that are being undertaken by UP dental students and staff investigating the growing problem of high sugar consumption in Cambodia. Sugar is not only an important risk factor for dental caries, but also for other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. UP is making its name as a leader in research into sugar and health in Cambodia.