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February 17, 2010 | 2 minute read

TV Ads and Chunky Kids

News stories about childhood obesity are all over the news lately, many of them sparked by Michelle Obama’s campaign. (Last week Alice wrote about her new initiative, and how it may help prevent cancer.)

There’s no shortage of reasons why the rate of childhood obesity has increased over the years. One of the manyChildren watching television culprits on the short list is watching too much television. Now a study of more than 2,000 children suggests that it’s not the TV watching, but the commercials that are leading to overweight kids.

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health and you can read the abstract here.

The TV watching data was first gathered in 1997 and then again in 2002. Parents filled out detailed activity reports of their children for one randomly chosen weekday and one weekend day. When watching TV, parents included the format (e.g., video, TV) and show. The UCLA researchers then analyzed the children’s TV information to their BMI.

For all the children, ages 0 to 12, the risk of being overweight increased the more commercial TV a child watched.There was no link with television viewing and obesity for children who watched videos or commercial-free programs. These results held even after the authors took into account exercise and eating while watching television.

What do you think about the foods advertised on kids’ TV programs? Any ideas on how to handle the ads for foods you don’t want your kids eating?

The authors note that it may be more effective to focus on promoting physical activity directly than to try to limit television viewing generally. For ideas on moving and healthy eating for kids, visit AICR’s The Taste Buddies.

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