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TV Ads Trigger Mindless Eating

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Watching food ads on TV leads to a boost in snacking among children and adults, increasing the risk of weight gain, new research says.

Yale University researchers conducted a series of experiments to test the effects of food commercials on television. One test found that children aged seven to 11 who watched a half-hour cartoon that included food commercials ate 45 percent more snack food while watching the show than children who watched the same cartoon with non-food commercials.

That increased amount of snacking would lead to a weight gain of nearly 10 pounds a year, unless it was countered by decreased intake of other foods or increased physical activity, the researchers said. The study is in the July 2009 issue of Health Psychology.

“This research shows a direct and powerful link between television food advertising and calories consumed by adults and children,” said lead author Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale.

“Food advertising triggers automatic eating, regardless of hunger, and is a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic. Reducing unhealthy food advertising to children is critical,” she said.

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