Today, obesity levels are on the increase with young people at risk. According to NHS data from 2016/17, 20% of children are already obese by ages 10 and 11. Even if children manage to remain a healthy weight, they are still vulnerable to dangerous weight gain as teenagers. According to a recent study, TV advertising is a likely problem.
Advertising Could Be Fuelling the Obesity Crisis
A new report conducted by Cancer Research UK indicates that junk food consumption amongst teenagers directly links to advertising. According to the report, teenagers who watch over three hours of commercial TV daily are likely to increase their junk food intake.
Based on a YouGov survey, the report asked 3,348 11-19-year olds in the UK questions about their eating and television habits. Researchers found that the teenagers who watched TV without adverts were much less likely to eat more junk food. In fact, there was no link found between extra food consumption and screen time.
The findings suggest that adverts on commercial TV could be driving teenagers towards consuming more unhealthy foods. Furthermore, adverts depicting high calorie foods could lead to the consumption of more than 500 unhealthy snacks in a year.
The report discovered that young people regularly watching commercial TV programmes with adverts doubled their likelihood of consuming more junk food. In comparison, teenagers who streamed TV from the internet had a lower exposure. Online streaming services have much less adverts, thus lowering exposure significantly.
Tackling Obesity is Important
This study, being the biggest of its kind is assessing the association between TV and diet. The methodology is unique but also essential to understand ways in which to tackle obesity. Obesity is highly preventable. It is the cause of a range of serious health problems such as: cardiovascular issues, diabetes and cancer.
The report itself doesn’t suggest that all teenagers are susceptible to TV adverts. Nevertheless, there is clear evidence of a strong association between adverts and eating habits. The report leader Dr Jyotsna Vohra is urging the TV regulator Ofcom to update their regulations on TV food marketing. One regulation was introduced a decade ago and is arguable outdated.
Dr Vohra outlines that adverts during programmes where teenagers are the target audience should be stopped. Currently, there is no regulation of food marketing during these times. Admittedly such an action wouldn’t be an ultimate solution to the obesity crisis. However, it would be a significant progression towards a better outcome.