Obese children influenced by TV adverts, study finds

University of Liverpool psychologists found that TV food adverts increase obese children’s appetite and can more than double the amount that they eat.

“Our research confirms that TV food advertising has a profound effect on all children’s eating habits – doubling their consumption rate. The study was also particularly interesting in suggesting a strong connection between weight and susceptibility to over-eating when exposed to food adverts on television,” said Dr Jason Halford, Director of the Liverpool University’s Kissileff Human Ingestive Behaviour Laboratory.

The psychologists showed a group of 60 children, aged 9-11 years and of all weights, a series of both food and toy television adverts, followed by a cartoon. After, they observed the children’s food intake.

They noticed that food intake following the food adverts “was significantly higher compared with the toy adverts in all weight groups”. According to their observations, obese children increased their food consumption by 134%, overweight children by 101% and normal weight children by 84%. In addition, as food of differing fat contents was made available to children, the obese group consistently chose products with the highest fat content.

The United Kingdom recently decided to ban advertising of junk food around children’s television programmes. However, surveys show that the junk food adverts still reach children during ‘family viewing’ hours in the evening when the ban does not apply. 

CIAA, the Confederation of European food and drink industries, recently published a report on industry achievements in relation to fight against obesity. According to the report, “many food and beverage companies have developed their own advertising and marketing codes” which often include detailed provisions on marketing to children. 

Several big brands have, for example, committed to either restricting or phasing out advertising of their products high in fat, sugar and salt to children under 12 years of age.

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