Advertisements that popularize their calorie-dense, low-nutrient foods have a negative impact on the kids. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Children's Hospital Boston studied the effect of obese kids watching television. The study results appear in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
Jean Wiecha said that television viewing is a risk factor for overweight as kids tend to eat the foods that are advertised, and this drives up their total calorie intake. The researchers collected data on dietary patterns and television viewing habits for 548 Boston-area students in sixth and seventh grade and did follow-up studies after 19 months.
The researchers mainly questioned about snacks and beverages commonly advertised on television, such as soda, chips, fast food and baked snacks like cookies. Students were asked to estimate the number of hours spent watching television each day of the week. It was estimated that for every hour of increased television viewing above the baseline there is an increase of 167 calories.
This was mainly attributed to the additional hour of television viewing which resulted in an increased consumption of foods commonly advertised on television. Viewing time is directly related to an additional consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. One in two children and one in three teenagers are overweight today compared to their counterparts growing up 20 years ago.
Such people are at a high risk for diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Due to these results the American Academy of Pediatrics ask the children to limit their TV viewing to less than two hours every day and lessen sedentary time. But further research on this topic is necessary to identify the exact dosage of advertising necessary to influence dietary choices. The study is an important contribution and helps to inform discussions about food marketing aimed at children.