cal research relating some marketing factor to diet-related health considered some version of the relationship between direct or indirect measures of body fat (adiposity) and television viewing. For simplicity, the term adiposity is used in this chapter to encompass the range of measures in the research reviewed.
The fifth element in the framework is moderators, variables that might alter the cause and effect relationships described in the path from marketing to diet-related health. In this domain, the committee identified age, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, as well as whether a young person has the opportunity to make independent food purchases, can understand the persuasive intent of advertising, and has accurate nutritional knowledge as a potential moderator.
In general, a moderator is a factor that changes the nature of the causal relationship between two other factors. In the most extreme and simple case, the state of a flashlight’s batteries moderates the influence of the switch on the state of the light. When the batteries are charged, the state of the switch fully determines the state of the light. When the batteries are dead, the switch has no effect whatsoever on the light. In another example, genetic or congenital factors moderate the influence of certain drugs on their intended outcome. For example, the effect of penicillin is quite different among those not allergic. Similarly, certain factors might moderate the effect of marketing on precursors, diet, or diet-related health. For example, the influence of television advertisements on food and beverage preferences might be moderated by cognitive development, as indexed by age. Children under about age 8 generally do not understand the persuasive intent of advertising or the implications of persuasive intent for the nature of the advertising they encounter (Blosser and Roberts, 1985; Donohue et al., 1978; Robertson and Rossiter, 1974; Ward et al., 1977). Presumably, they are more readily influenced by advertising and other forms of marketing than are children older than about 8 years. Income or socioeconomic status might also moderate the effects of marketing on diet. For those in a low-income family, for example, the effect of price might be much stronger than it is for those in a high-income family. Because foods such as fruits and vegetables cost more per calorie than do French fries or cheeseburgers, socioeconomic status may be an important moderator of the influence of fruit and vegetable marketing strategies. In another example, gender may moderate teens’ reactions to marketing for sweet or high-fat foods and beverages. By early adolescence, many girls are concerned about their weight (Story et al., 1995) and, assuming that teens know that consuming sweets and high-fat foods leads to weight gain, they might be more resistant to the marketing of those foods than adolescent boys.
The arrows in the framework are not meant to reflect quantitative