Banning television ads promoting junk food to kids may help to reduce obesity rates and health care costs, according to new research out of Australia.
The research team at Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre looked at restricting TV ads promoting food high in fat, sugar, and salt, until after 9:30 pm, when most children have gone to bed.
According to the researchers, the restricted ad time would be cost-effective and beneficial to kids’ health.
“We calculated that these changes would see the average child, aged five to 15, consume 805 kJ less per week,” said the study’s lead author Victoria Brown, “our economic modelling showed that this would save more than $780 million in healthcare costs over the lifetime of these children, due to the prevention of obesity-related diseases.”
In particular, the restricted commercial viewing time would benefit children in lower socioeconomic groups, which are more often predisposed to opt for unhealthy junk food.
“This is because children from poorer areas have a higher exposure to TV advertising due to more time spent watching TV,” Brown said.
It’s also partly due to the likelihood that lower socioeconomic groups live in areas classed as food deserts — regions void of nearby supermarkets or easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
“And what we’ve shown in this study,” Brown notes, “is that restricting junk food advertising won’t just reduce obesity prevalence in children, it will also reduce socioeconomic inequities in obesity rates.”
The research comes as a growing number of cities in the U.S. have begun enacting taxes on soda and other sugar-sweetened soft drinks. The taxes have been proving effective in reducing consumption. And cities like New York and Los Angeles have also begun implementing healthier school lunches throughout their districts, including meatless and vegan meals.
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