Children are prompted to eat more by seeing the food ads on television, says a study. It also adds that overweight and obese children are more vulnerable to it.
Researchers from Liverpool University, presenting their findings at the European Congress on Obesity in Budapest, said they exposed a group of 60 British children aged between nine and 11 to a series of food and toy adverts on television, followed by a cartoon.
AdvertisementFor children of all weights, food intake was higher after watching food adverts rather than toy adverts but overweight and obese children ate far more.
According to the study, obese children increased their food intake by 134 percent, overweight children by 101 percent and normal weight children by 84 percent.
Jason Halford, co-author of the report and director of Liverpool University's Kissileff Human Ingestive Behaviour Laboratory, said the study proved a direct link between TV food advertising and food intake among children.
"Our research confirms food TV advertising has a profound effect on all children's eating habits - doubling their consumption rate," he said.
"The study was also particularly interesting in suggesting a strong connection between weight and susceptibility to overeating when exposed to food adverts on television," he added.
The study also found that obese children were far more likely to reach for snacks with the highest fat content, such as chocolate.
However, the increase in consumption happened irrespective of which brand of product was being advertised.
In Britain, 14 percent of children are classed as obese and the average child watches 17 hours of television per week.
A ban on junk food advertising during peak viewing hours for children was introduced in January, but surveys show many children still watch TV in the evening when the ban is not in force.
The study provides more ammunition to critics who say that TV can cause serious health and development problems among children.
Aric Sigman, a psychologist specialising in health issues, Monday told British MPs that children under three should be banned from watching television and that older children should face severe rationing.
Over 2,000 obesity experts are attending the four-day congress in Budapest, and doctors there have warned that Europe may be on the verge of a major health and social crisis due to rising obesity.