Fast Food TV Ads May Be Increasing Your Child's Obesity Risk

First Posted: Oct 31, 2015 10:09 PM EDT

Are fast food advertisements making your children fat?

Researchers at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth found that children who watched television channels airing fast food advertisements were more likely to frequent fast food restaurants with their families, according to a recent study.

The study involved a database that compiled all fast food TV ads that aired nationally in 2009. Researchers found that 79 percent of the child-directed ads came from just two fast food restaurants--Burger King and McDonald's--that aired on four children's networks.

During the study, they enrolled 100 children between the ages of 3 and 7, along with one of their parents. The parents completed a survey that included questions about how often their children watched each of the four networks, including Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, Cartoon Network and Disney, according to a news release

Overall, researchers found that 37 percent of the parents reported more frequent visits to the restaurants with child-directed TV ads. Another 54 percent of the children also requested visits to at least one of the restaurants, according to study authors, and of the 29 percent of children who collected toys from the chains, around 83 percent asked to go to one or both of the restaurants.

Though the study sample is rather small, researchers believe that the message overall is clear.

It's best that parents switch to commercial-free TV programming and/or limit time spent viewing television. Previous studies regarding watching television have also been linked to an increased risk of weight gain and lowered attention span. Statistics show that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The study was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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