A study done by Dr Christopher Ferguson and colleagues at Texas A&M International University, in the US, has shown that food advertisements on television can have a bigger impact on the choices that children make about food than advice from their parents or care givers.
The new study has been published in The Journal of Pediatrics and involved 75 children aged between three and five years.
All the children were given two cartoons to watch with advertisements in between. Half of them were shown a commercial for French Fries, and the remainder one for slices of apple with a healthy dipping sauce.
They were then allowed to choose either a coupon for French Fries or the apple slices in the presence of their parents or caregivers. Half of the parents / caregivers were asked to encourage their children to pick the apple coupon and the remainder were not to make any comment. The study found that if the parents / care givers remained neutral about 71 percent of those children watching the French fries advertisement chose them in preference to the apple slices. That number dropped by only 16 percent when the parents / caregivers pushed the apple slice choice.
“Although advertising impact on children’s food choices is moderate in size, it appears resilient to parental efforts to intervene. Rather than focusing on banning advertisements to children, politicians, advocates, and food producers should concentrate on ways to promote the advertisement of healthy food options. Advertisement effects can work both for and against healthy eating.” said Dr Ferguson.