Losing some TV ads might reduce childhood obesity

  • UK children are exposed to unhealthy food advertising on television, which can lead to obesity  
  • Reducing their exposure to such advertising could significantly lower the numbers of obese kids 
  • Care should, however, be taken that this advertising doesn't just move to a later time slot and to online services

Limiting TV ads for sugary, salty and high-fat foods and drinks might help reduce childhood obesity, British researchers suggest.

They looked at advertising of these products between 5:30 am and 9 pm. If all such ads were withdrawn during those hours, the number of obese kids in the UK between the ages of 5 and 17 would drop by 5% and the number of overweight kids would fall 4%, the study found.

That's equivalent to 40 000 fewer kids in the UK who would be obese and 120 000 fewer who would be overweight, the researchers said.

Media from a range of sources

The findings were published online on in October in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Oliver Mytton, an academic clinical lecturer at the Center for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge, led the study.

"Measures which have the potential to reduce exposure to less-healthy food advertising on television could make a meaningful contribution to reducing childhood obesity," the authors said in a journal news release.

But they also pointed out that they could not fully account for all factors that would affect the impact of the policy, if implemented.

They added: "Children now consume media from a range of sources, and increasingly from online and on-demand services, so in order to give all children the opportunity to grow up healthy it is important to ensure that this advertising doesn't just move to the 9–10 pm slot and to online services."

Image credit: Unsplash

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