Fri, Oct 28, 2016 | updated 11:52 AM IST

Junk food ads steer kids towards unhealthy diet

Updated: Jul 06, 2016 15:17 IST

Washington D.C, Jul 6 (ANI): Ads for unhealthy foods and beverages high in sugar or salt have the power to sway kids' preferences, according to a recent study.

The McMaster University study examined 29 trials assessing the effects of unhealthy food and beverage marketing and analyzing caloric intake and dietary preference among more than 6000 children.

Researchers found that the marketing increased dietary intake and influenced dietary preference in children during or shortly after exposure to advertisements.

Lead author Behnam Sadeghirad said that these findings demonstrate the influence that these advertisements, a growing epidemic, have on children's food choices.

"The rates of overweight and obesity among children are rising worldwide," said Sadeghirad, adding "This is the first systematic review evidence based on 29 randomized trials and it shows that the extensive exposure kids have to marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages via product packaging (superheroes, logos), TV and the internet increases their short-term caloric intake and preference for junk food."

For the study, Sadeghirad's team looked at previous studies that examined advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages through television and movie commercials, videogames, use of branded logos, packaging with licensed characters and booklet/magazine ads.

When children were exposed to unhealthy advertisements, they consumed significantly unhealthier than healthy calories, the study found. The findings also suggest that younger children might be more susceptible to the impact of food and beverage marketing in terms of quantity and quality of calories consumed.

The researchers hypothesize that younger children might be more vulnerable to the influence of advertisements and associate the marketed products with positive features of commercials and subsequently try to imitate the behaviors they see.

The researchers say these findings are particularly important considering recent studies revealing that children are exposed to an average of five food ads per hour, with unhealthy foods accounting for greater than 80 per cent of all televised food advertisements in Canada, the United States and Germany.

"Overall, our analyses show the need for a review of public policy on child-targeted unhealthy food and beverage marketing," added corresponding author Bradley Johnston.

Johnston added "The increasing prevalence of obesity seems to further coincide with marked increases in the food and beverage industry's budget for marketing aimed at children and youth, with data showing that energy-dense, low-nutrient foods and beverages make up the majority of commercially marketed products."

The study is published in the scientific journal Obesity Reviews. (ANI)