Does your kid spend a lot of time watching TV? Does he have a knack for identifying the fast food brands featured in commercials?
You may want to pay closer attention to his tube time, as a study by the Michigan State University discovered that children as young as three years old who can already identify the logos of fast food chains, soda and snack brands are more likely to be overweight or obese. They are also more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI).
Kids between three and five years old were shown images of unhealthy food, along with those of food items, packaging and certain cartoon characters, which they all had to match with their respective logos. The results were varied, as some of the children knew a lot about the brands, while others did not.
The researchers wanted to determine whether it was the sedentary lifestyle and the amount of time watching TV that was making kids fat, or if it was the unhealthy messages that had something to do with the weight problem. “It’s probably the developing food knowledge, not the sedentary lifestyle”, says Anna McAlister, assistant professor of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University.
Exercise, despite its benefits, was ruled out as a “cure-all” for eradicating obesity. “Of course we want kids to be active, but the results from these studies suggest that physical activity should not be the only answer.”
Parents are advised to limit their kids’ exposure to TV commercials. The study’s co-author, Bettina Cornwell, also noted that the study’s findings show just how children can make decisions early on in life about their preferences, and that these more or less stick throughout their life.