Food Ads Trick Kids Into Unhealthy Snacking Says New Study

A recent study found that children who are exposed to food advertisements are more likely to overeat. Most advertisements during kids’ shows and on cartoon channels are for junk foods for kids which means that children watching these shows are likely to overeat. This could be a contributing factor to the rise in obesity in children. The study was conducted at the Dartmouth College, New Hampshire and researchers were also able to identify a specific gene in children that would increase their risk of obesity.

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How Advertising Increases Obesity Risk In Kids

The researchers identified the effects of a particular gene on a child’s appetite. The gene is known as the fat mass and obesity-associated gene (FTO) and it comes in various slightly different versions. The 3 main versions of this gene are categorized as the high-risk version, the low-risk version, and the moderate-risk version. Researchers found that while most children have the moderate-risk version, over 15 percent of them have the high-risk version of this gene. They found that the children with the high-risk type of FTO gene were most likely to be obese or over weight.

The results of this study also showed that junk food ads made it more likely for kids to reach for a snack, even after they are full. This indicates that the advertisements stimulated a child’s hunger response despite being completely satiated. The researchers found this particularly alarming as this type of behavior is linked to a greater risk of childhood weight gain and obesity.

The Effect Of Food Advertisements On Kids

The experiment conducted by the researchers found that children who view food ads are more likely to snack  even after a filling meal as compared to children who saw ads for toys instead. Furthermore, children who watched ads regarding a specific food item were more likely to snack on that particular food. Children with the high-risk version of the FTO gene were the most likely to snack. All the findings of the study and the experiment clearly showed that watching food advertisements increases a child’s chance of unnecessary snacking which would increase their risk of weight gain and obesity.

How You Can Protect Your Child From Food Advertisers

Food advertisers target children’s shows so that children force their parents to buy the same foods they see on TV. Do not give in to your child’s insistent pleading for junk foods as this will create an unhealthy habit that can affect your child for life. You can’t control the ads your child views, but you can control the food he eats. Give your child a small bowl of any healthy snack during his favorite TV show as this will reduce the effect of the food advertisements.

You should also limit the amount of time he spends watching TV and instead encourage him to get creative. This will help your child develop his creative skills which can change the course of his life. Once his cartoon episode is over, switch off the TV and give him a few sheets of paper and some crayons or color pencils. Ask him to draw the cartoon episode that he just watched. Do this as part of a regular routine as it will also improve his observational skills. Above all else, don’t blame your child for wanting certain unhealthy kid’s foods  but always take the time to explain to him why he can’t have them and give him  healthy but tasty snacks instead.
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