Food Advertising And Unhealthy Choices: How Do These Influence Your Child's Eating Habits?

First Posted: Jan 25, 2016 02:33 PM EST

Researchers at the University of Liverpool's Institute of Psychology, Health & Society have found that unhealthy food advertising negatively influences children's food choices--increasing their risk of forming life-long bad habits.

Researchers reviewed and analyzed 22 separate studies that examined the impact of acute, experimental unhealthy food advertising exposure via food consumption. The studies included had exposed children and/or adults to unhealthy food advertising on television or the Internet, took into account how much the participant ate and then compared this amount to how much controls consumed who were not exposed to advertisements.

"Through our analysis of these published studies I have shown that food advertising doesn't just affect brand preference - it drives consumption. Given that almost all children in Westernised societies are exposed to large amounts of unhealthy food advertising on a daily basis this is a real concern," said study author Dr. Emma Boyland of the University of Liverpool, in a news release. "Small, but cumulative increases in energy intake have resulted in the current global childhood obesity epidemic and food marketing plays a critical role in this. We have also shown that the effects are not confined to TV advertising; online marketing by food and beverage brands is now well established and has a similar impact."

The analysis showed that unhealthy food advertising exposure significantly increased food consumption in children, but not adults. Television and Internet advertising were equally impactful.

Researchers noted that based on the findings, they hope to push for enacting both environmental strategies and policy options that would help reduce exposure to food advertising.

The study is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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