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TV Food Advertising Affects Preschoolers' Diet

In a first of its kind study, researchers looked at how TV food advertisements affected snacking habits of preschool-aged children. Previous research on the subject has focused on school-age children and found a causal association between TV food advertising and increased snacking.  The study, “Randomized Exposure to Food Advertisements and Eating in the Absence of Hunger Among Preschoolers,” appearing in the December 2016 issue of Pediatrics (published online Nov. 21), involved 60 children ages 2-5 years old from New Hampshire and Vermont. Researchers gave children a filling snack before asking them to watch a 14-minute children’s program. During the program, children were provided free access to snacks. One group of children viewed programming with food advertisements embedded.  The other group viewed programming with advertisements for a department store and no food advertisements.  The group that viewed the programming with food ads ate more snacks foods during viewing than the non-food advertisement group. The authors conclude this study demonstrates that TV food ads do impact cued-eating among young children, leading them to eat in the absence of hunger. Authors support that reducing children’s exposure to food advertisements can improve overall eating habits of children and reduce consumption of unnecessary calories.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit

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