April 24, 2007
Obese and overweight kids increase their food intake by more than 100% after watching food advertisements on television, a study by the University of Liverpool psychologists has shown.

Our research confirms food TV advertising has a profound effect on all childrens eating habits -- doubling their consumption rate," said Dr. Jason Halford, Director of the Universitys Kissileff Human Ingestive Behavior Laboratory.

"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.

In the study, A group of 60 children of varying weights, aged between nine and eleven years was shown a series of both food television ads and toy ads, followed by a cartoon.

Food intake following the food commercials was significantly higher compared with the toy ads in all weight groups, with the obese children increasing their consumption by 134%; overweight children by 101% and normal weight children by 84%.

Fattier Snacks Chosen

It was also found that weight dictated food preference during the experiment. Food of differing fat contents was made available to the children to eat at their own will, ranging from high fat sweet snacks to low fat savory products.

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.

In Britain, 14% of children are classed as obese and the average UK child watches 17 hours of commercial television a week. A ban on junk food advertising around childrens television programs was introduced in the UK in January 2007, yet surveys have shown that many children still watch during family viewing hours in the evening when the ban does not apply.

The University research team is presented its research at the European Congress on Obesity in Budapest.

Future studies are planned to investigate whether enhanced responsiveness to food adverts or the greater amount of television children are watching is a predictor of childhood obesity.