Children of all ages are exposed to TV commercials for junk foods at an alarming rate, says a new US study.
The study released by the US Kaiser Family Foundation found that children between 8 and 12 years of age viewed the most food commercials - an average of 21 a day or more than 7,600 per year.
Among other age groups, teens viewed approximately 17 food advertisements per day or over 6,000 a year, while children aged two to seven saw about 12 per day or 4,400 a year.
The study, which is the largest ever carried out on television advertising aimed at kids, had researchers look at and analyse commercials during 1,638 hours of TV programming on networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS, the Cartoon Network, Disney, MTV, and Nickelodeon.
Vicky Rideout, vice president of the foundation and co-author of the study, said the significance of the study was "that most of the food advertisements that kids see on TV today are for foods that nutritionists would argue children probably need to be eating less of, not more of."
"Sugared cereals, candies, chips, fast foods, sodas, and soft drinks comprise more than 80 percent of all the advertisements targeted at children and teens," she said.
Nearly 25 million children and teenagers in the US are either overweight or obese.
Several reports from the US Institute of Medicine address the issue of food marketing to children and its role in the epidemic of childhood obesity.
Experts have offered a national plan of action - calling on the food, beverage, and entertainment industries to voluntarily develop and implement guidelines for advertising and marketing directed at children and youths.