Children who are exposed to advertisements for junk food will consume unhealthier food overall, regardless of the product or brand being marketed, a new study from the Rudd Centre for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.
The study, published in Economics and Human Biology, displays the relationship between a child’s exposure to food advertising on TV and the consumption of unhealthy food, in particular sugar-sweetened drinks and fast food.
The study tracked food consumption patterns and BMI (Body Mass Index) among nearly 10,000 children in the fifth grade.
The children’s BMI was obtained through height and weight measurements, food consumption data was provided by the children themselves and a media research company provided the date on spot TV advertising of cereals, fast food and soft drinks to children aged six to eleven.
The study’s findings reveal that TV advertising of soft-drinks and fast food is directly associated with increased overall consumption of these products among elementary school children.
Exposure to 100 television ads for sugar-sweetened soft drinks was associated with a 9.4 per cent rise in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
“Unhealthy foods are most commonly advertised to children. Since exposure to this type of advertising is associated with increased consumption, children’s diets are directly impacted with potential long-term effects on BMI and health, especially among the heaviest children,” said lead author Tatiana Andreyeva, Ph.D., the Rudd Center’s director of economic initiatives.