Study: TV ads = higher obesity risk for kids

Study shows a third of food ads aimed at kids and teens are for 'junk food'; 8- to 12-year olds hit hardest.

By Parija B. Kavilanz, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- Even with child obesity rates soaring in America, food marketers are bombarding kids with a steady diet of snack and candy ads, a new study said Wednesday.

In the study, "Food for Thought:Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States," the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation reviewed 1,638 hours of television targeting 2 to 17 year-olds from May to September of 2005.

New food study says children between ages 8 to 12 watch the most number of food ads; 34 percent of all food targeting kids are for candy and snacks.

The report found kids are exposed to about 18,000 ads a year on average and that slightly more than a third, or 34 percent of those ads, are for candy and snack foods. Another 28 percent were for cereal and 10 percent were for fast food. A smaller portion of the ads were for dairy products and fruit juices.

But of the nearly 9,000 ads reviewed during the five months covered by the study, none were for fruits or vegetables, the foundation said, noting this was especially troubling given the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States.

A spokesman for Kaiser said no comparisons were available since it was the foundation's first major study on food ads and children.

Tweens aged 8 to 12 watched the most food ads, as many as 7,600 a year, the study found. Teens watched about 6,000 food ads a year and young children, 2 to 7, were exposed to about 4,400 a year, the study found.

The latest numbers from the federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscore the growing problem of childhood obesity in the United States.

The numbers show that nearly 14 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese in 2004, the latest figures available, up from 5 percent in 1980. The figure was 17.4 percent for teens, up from 5 percent.

The study did not evaluate how many other food ads kids see via other media including print, online, in-store and in-school marketing.

The Kaiser Family Foundation-funded study was conducted in collaboration with Indiana University.

Fortune: Better eating through genomics

M&M's maker to stop marketing to kids

Gluten-free knocks low-carb fad off the shelf  Top of page