TV food ads make fat kids eat more

Researchers in Britain have found that obese and overweight children eat more after watching food ads on TV.

The psychologists at Liverpool University say TV advertising of food increased the childrens intake by as much as 100% and confirms the profound effect such advertising has on all children's eating habits.

This conclusion was arrived at after a group of 60 children of varying weights, aged between nine and eleven years were shown a series of both food television adverts and toy adverts, followed by a cartoon.

Following the food adverts food intake was significantly higher compared with the toy adverts in all weight groups, but the obese children in the group increased their consumption by 134%; overweight children by 101% and normal weight children by 84%.

The researchers also found that the children's weight dictated food preference during the experiment.

A range of food of differing fat contents was offered to the children, from high fat sweet snacks to low fat savoury products, and the obese group consistently chose the highest fat product - chocolate - whereas the overweight children chose jelly sweets which have a lower fat content, as well as chocolate.

According to Dr. Jason Halford, Director of the University's Kissileff Human Ingestive Behaviour Laboratory, the research confirms the suspicion that food TV advertising has a profound effect on all children's eating habits and doubles their consumption rate.

Dr. Halford says the study was particularly interesting in that it suggested a strong connection between weight and susceptibility to over-eating when exposed to food adverts on television.

In the UK 14% of children are classed as obese and the average British child watches 17 hours of commercial television each week.

Although a ban on junk food advertising at times based around children's television programmes was introduced in the UK in January this year surveys have revealed that many children watch television during 'family viewing' hours in the evening when the ban does not apply.

The University research team will present the research at the European Congress on Obesity in Budapest, Hungary, this week and say they plan to conduct more studies which will investigate whether enhanced responsiveness to food adverts or the greater amount of television children are watching, is a predictor of childhood obesity.

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