Today’s Wall Street Journal asks “does food advertising on television make you eat more?” According to some new research in Britain, it does when kids are concerned.
A study had kids ranging in age from 5 to 11 watch a video that had some children’s programming (cartoon, “family” shows, etc) and common ads for toys or food products that generally appear on air with the shows. After the video, the kids were given access to a snack table with a huge variety of options – healthy and uhealthy – and their consumption was monitored.
5 to 7 year olds ate an average of 15% more calories after viewing the food ads and 8 to 11 year olds ate up to 134% more calories. Kid who were already overweight tended to eat more than their slimmer counterparts, too.
For those who support heavy restrictions on food advertising, this study seems like it supports their cause, but researchers say that any reasonable visual stimulus might do the same thing. So, if the kids don’t have access to lots of fatty/sugary snacks, it doesn’t really matter how many ads they watch because the main problem has been taken out of the equation. In fact, the study showed that kids at more healthy snacks after seeing the food ads, as well, so while the ads may be inspiring the kids to eat, they’re not really the source of the problem when it comes to obesity.