For one group, food commercials were included, while the other group viewed non-food-related commercials. The result was that those children who watched the food ads ate 45 percent more snack food during the show than those who saw non-food spots.
The researchers calculated that the extra snacking would translate into a weight gain of almost 10 pounds annually, unless the children cut back on other foods or stepped up their exercise levels.
In another test, the scientists showed adults TV commercials for unhealthy foods. It turned out that those who viewed these ads ate far more than those who were shown spots that spoke of good nutrition or healthy food.
“This research shows a direct and powerful link between television food advertising and calories consumed by adults and children,” lead author Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, said in a press release put out by the university.
“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.