Junk food adverts influence children

Children in the UK continue to be influenced by junk food advertisements, new research has shown. Part funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and carried out by investigators at Newcastle University, the study revealed youngsters are still exposed to the same degree of promotion for unhealthy food despite regulations restricting such ads during kids' television programmes.

According to the findings - which have been published in the journal PLoS One - little ones are still seeing these adverts because they are watching other shows meant for an older audience.

Mubeen Bhutta, policy manager at the BHF, which was founded in 1961, claimed current restrictions are not going far enough to prevent young people longing for products that are detrimental to their health and development.

The expert stated: "To protect children, all junk food adverts should be screened after the 21:00 watershed and we want to see consistent advertising regulations across all forms of media."

Dr Sheila Keegan, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "In an ideal world, children would never be exposed to advertisements or other material which is inappropriate for their stage of development.

"However, we do not live in an ideal world. Many, perhaps most, children regularly watch advertising which is not targeted at them and this includes advertisements for unhealthy food.

"However, greater restrictions on the times that these adverts are screened may be only part of the answer. Restrictions will only work if parents rigorously monitor their children's viewing behaviour.

"A more realistic approach to this problem may lie in a combination of sensible restrictions on advertising and early nutritional training for children, ideally starting in the home.

"Teaching children the difference between good and bad food and encouraging them to enjoy healthier food is likely to instil good eating patterns for the future."