Most hit Hollywood films would fail advertising healthy food standards - study

Imagine the famous scene from Pulp Fiction, but instead of a cheeseburger Jules is eating a salad - that's what health researchers want, after taking a close look at the crap characters in hit Hollywood films eat. 

Wolfing down fast food and knocking back alcohol beverages is common on the silver screen, new research has found.

The researchers say it shows limiting the kinds of foods that can be advertised, particularly to children, is of little use if A-listers are most likely to be seen eating McDonald's or drinking beers. 

Nearly three-quarters of the top 250 grossing films in the US between 1994 and 2018 would fail UK advertising standards if they were advertisements, based on the food their characters eat, and 90 percent would fail based on their choice of beverages.

The most common restaurant spotted in Hollywood films is McDonald's, followed by Starbucks, seafood chain Bubba Gump, Burger King, Pizza Hut, 7-11 and Dunkin' Donuts. The most commonly seen branded foods included Tabasco hot sauce, Lay's chips, Doritos, Oreos, Hershey's chocolate, Pringles, Fritos, Cheetos and Pop-Tarts. 

The most common drinks were all beers or sugar-laden soft drinks. 

"The problem of media depictions of unhealthy diets as normative and valued extends far beyond brands and advertisements," the researchers wrote in the study, published in journal JAMA Internal Medicine this week

"Accordingly, an understanding of obesogenic food environments must expand beyond advertising, food supply systems, and physical built environments to also include sociocultural media influences."

In G-rated movies, alcohol made up nearly 20 percent of all drinks consumed, rising to half of all drinks in R-rated hits. Overall, movie characters drink about four times as much as the average person and nearly three times as much as health officials recommend. 

In contrast, infant formula and breastfeeding barely featured at all in the 250 films looked at, and water is drunk in just one-in-seven. 

"Among foods, most movies depicted medium or high (amber or red traffic light) levels of sugar, saturated fat, total fat, and, to a lesser extent, sodium."

On average, the diets depicted in box office smashes is worse than that of the average American - one of the most obese nations on the planet. 

"Movies represent a high-impact opportunity to promote healthy consumption if movie producers expand the range of foods and beverages depicted as normative, valued, and representative," the researchers conclude.