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Junk Food Ads Sway Kids' Preferences

TUESDAY, July 5, 2016 -- Any parent who's ever endured a whining child begging for that colorful box of cereal won't be surprised by a new study's findings: Children are more likely to eat junk food when they've seen ads for unhealthy foods and beverages.

The new review included 29 past studies. There were more than 6,000 children involved in those studies.

The researchers found that ads and other marketing for products high in sugar or salt have an immediate and major impact on youngsters. And children younger than age 8 might be most susceptible to junk food and beverage marketing, the study authors reported.

The findings show the influence that such ads can have on children, said lead author Behnam Sadeghirad, a doctoral student at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

"This [review] shows that the extensive exposure kids have to marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages via product packaging (superheroes, logos), TV and the internet increases their short-term caloric intake and preference for junk food," Sadeghirad said in a university news release.

Unhealthy products account for more than 80 percent of all televised food ads in the United States and Canada, according to past research. The authors behind the new study noted that recent research revealed that children see an average of five food ads an hour.

Study corresponding author Bradley Johnston said, "Overall, our analyses show the need for a review of public policy on child-targeted unhealthy food and beverage marketing." Johnston is an assistant professor in the department of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster.

"The increasing prevalence of obesity seems to further coincide with marked increases in the food and beverage industry's budget for marketing aimed at children and youth, with data showing that energy-dense, low-nutrient foods and beverages make up the majority of commercially marketed products," Johnston said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on nutrition.

Posted: July 2016


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