Experts warn that kids who watch TV see more ads for junk food, consuming on average 500 more snacks per year than kids who don’t

Indeed, advertisements influence the mind. Experts discovered that children and teens who watched over three hours of TV commercials a day consumed more unhealthy foods compared to those who only saw only a few TV ads.

The research team based the study on a YouGov survey, which involved more than 3,000 participants who were 11 to 19 years old. The survey asked the participants questions regarding their TV viewing habits and diet. The findings of the study revealed that teenagers who saw more TV commercials consumed more than 500 snacks per year compared to those who saw very little TV commercials. Each week, they ate ten snack items on average, such as chips, biscuits, or soft drinks. Meanwhile, there was no link between screen time and the chances of eating more junk food when they watched TV without commercials.

“This is the strongest evidence yet that junk food adverts could increase how much teens choose to eat,” Dr. Jyotsna Vohra, one of the researchers, said.

Vohra also said that their research suggests a strong link between advertisements and eating habits. Junk food is one of the contributing factors that cause childhood obesity.

“Our report suggests that reducing junk food TV marketing could help to halt the obesity crisis,” Dr. Vohra added.

In a different study by the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), it was revealed that more than half of food and drink ads shown in popular family TV shows were for products rich in fat, sugar, and salt – all of which would be banned from TV channels for children. In the U.K., advertising high-calorie food is prohibited in TV shows for children.

However, health campaigners argue that it does not apply to mainstream shows like live football matches, which a lot of teens watch. In fact, it was revealed that children, as young as four, are watching around 12 advertisements for junk food within an hour during family TV shows. The OHA, which commissioned the study, said that children were still being exposed to ads for unhealthy foods because they watch shows aimed at adults, wherein the restrictions do not apply. (Related: UK begins serious debate to ban TV advertising of junk foods to children.)

“We know brand recognition influences children’s behaviours from as young as 18 months, which is why the government saw it fit to ban junk food advertising during children’s shows back in 2010,” Mary Fewtrell, nutrition lead at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said.

On the other hand, Caroline Cerny, the OHA’s lead, said: “The rules to protect children from junk food advertising in the UK are 10 years old. They weren’t strong enough then and they are definitely not fit for purpose now, as they only cover 27 percent of children’s viewing time.”

Childhood obesity, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of the most serious public health problems in the 21st century. Since 1975, obesity in general has almost tripled — more than 340 million children and adolescents aged five to 19 were overweight or obese in 2016, while over 1.9 billion adults were overweight or obese. Obesity in childhood puts children and youth at risk for becoming obese as adults. Moreover, it is also linked to a lot of diseases such as diabetes, heart health problems, and some types of cancer.

Read more stories on the causes and health consequences of obesity at

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