A new study out of Dartmouth shows that time in front of the TV pays a dual contribution to the obesity epidemic. The study surveyed more than 3,300 young people ages 15 to 23 years of varying heights, weight and activity levels about their consumption of soda, fast foods and lifestyle behaviors, such as time spent watching TV and food consumption while watching TV.
Following the survey, participants were shown images from 20 different TV ads from the past year, concealing the brand imaging within each ad. Among the participants, 18 percent were overweight and 15 percent were obese. The obese participants recognized twice as many fast food brand names from the altered images than leaner participants who only recognized a few.
It is important to note that the obese participants were not anymore likely to eat more frequently at the fast-food establishments depicted in the advertisements.
The co-author of the study commented that this suggests that food-consumption patterns are linked to visual cues stimulated while eating and watching TV, not increased visits to fast-food restaurants. He also remarked that more research needs to be done, but there is a definitive link between obesity and TV advertising. These finding correlate with past studies linking junk food ads on TV to an increased occurrence of obesity among young people.
The study, out of the Dartmouth Pediatrics Department, hopes to bring the impact of the media and marketing on young people to the spotlight and fuel further research that can help pediatricians guide parents toward making healthy food choices for their children.
A similar study was conducted with awareness of alcohol and alcohol brands, linking underage drinking to familiarity with alcohol brands primarily through media exposure.