Too much time in front of the television has long been linked to childhood obesity. But new research by the University of California, Los Angeles, now suggests it’s the commercials that are making kids fat. Although the effect was seen among all children studied, it was strongest for children younger than seven-years-old, according to the report recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. Fred Zimmerman, the study’s lead author and chairman of UCLA’s Department of Health Services, said television commercials for sweetened cereals, unhealthy snack food and fast food chains probably had a negative influence on a child’s food preferences. The more television commercials a child is exposed to, the more likely he or she will be to try those foods and want to continue eating them, which then increases risk for weight gain. The authors conclude that the availability of high-quality, enjoyable and educational programs for all ages on DVD should make it relatively easy for health educators and care providers to nudge children’s viewing toward content that does not contain unhealthy messages about food and eating.
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