TV food ads 'fuel' children's appetites

Obese children increase their food intake by 134 per cent after watching food advertisements on television, a new study claims.

UK researchers found that advertising's impact affects all children; overweight children and normal weight children ate 101 and 84 per cent more food respectively.

The findings are likely to add weight to current attempts to crack down on the type of adverts that children see on television.

In January this year the government introduced a ban on junk food advertising around children's television programmes but concerns have been raised that kids still watch adverts around more adult-orientated shows.

In the latest study, University of Liverpool psychologists studied 60 children of varying weights aged between nine and 11 as they were shown a series of food and toy adverts followed by a cartoon.

As well as the increase in food consumed, they also found that weight dictated which food would be eaten. Obese children consistently chose the highest fat product (chocolate) whereas overweight children chose a mix of sweets and chocolate.

Dr Jason Halford, director of the university's Kissileff human ingestive behaviour laboratory said: "Our research confirms food TV advertising has a profound effect on all children's eating habits – doubling their consumption rate.

"The study was also particularly interesting in suggesting a strong connection between weight and susceptibility to over-eating when exposed to food adverts on television."

Researchers presented the study at the European Congress on Obesity in Budapest.

In the UK 14 per cent of children are classed as obese and the average child watches 17 hours of commercial television a week. Government statistics estimate that there will be one million obese children by 2010 unless changes are made to lifestyles.

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