Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

TV Ads for Junk Food: A Link to Kids' Obesity?

Researchers Say Prime Time for Kids Has Heavy Advertising for High-Sugar Foods

WebMD Health News

Aug. 26, 2005 - Junk-food advertisers may be playing a direct role in the growing obesity problem among U.S. children by scheduling commercials during kids' peak TV-viewing time, a new study suggests.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to maintain the moderation necessary to preserve their children's health," writes researcher Kristen Harrison and colleagues at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Based on a 1991-2002 National Health and Nutritional study, an estimated 16% of children aged 6-19 are overweight. This represents a 45% increase over data obtained during 1988-1994.

Almost one in seven white children and one in four black and Hispanic children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to the researchers.

The problem of childhood obesity has been linked to the spread of modernization, one significant component of which is television, they add.

The study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.

Heavy Viewing of TV Ads

The average child views more than 40,000 commercials per year, mostly for toys, cereals, candies, and fast foods, the researchers write.

Although parents typically decide what will go on the dining room table, foods that are purchased are influenced by their children's requests; TV viewing may affect those choices.

The researchers set out to explore foods advertised to children during TV programs heavily viewed by children. They taped 40 hours of airtime over a five-week period in the spring of 2003. The programs selected were rated as the most popular nationwide among children 6-11 years old.

They surveyed 1,424 ads. Of those, 426, or 29.9%, were for food products.

The researchers show that nutrient-poor, high-sugar foods were prevalent, dominating food advertised during the TV programs children aged 6 to 11 watch most.

Candy, sweets, soft drinks, and convenience/fast foods were advertised most frequently, followed distantly by breads and cereals, write the researchers. Most advertising featured no health- related messages.

Convenience/fast foods and sweets compromised 83% of advertised foods.

Snack-time eating was advertised more than breakfast, lunch, or dinner combined, they write.

Help Kids Make Good Choices

Despite the heavy marketing of such foods, Harrison says parental involvement is still the most important factor in determining the daily diet of kids.

"Parents can work to maintain the integrity of the family pantry not only through selective shopping, but also through efforts to instruct their children about food and nutrition," she says.

Reducing the time spent in front of the television may also go a long way in slimming waistlines - of kids and their parents. "Parents could curb eating in their household by limiting their children - and their own - television viewing," notes Harrison.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
mother and daughter talking
child brushing his teeth
Sipping hot tea
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
rl with friends
tissue box
Child with adhd