Teenagers who watch just one extra junk food advert beyond the average of six across a seven-day period eat almost 340 extra calories per week, according to a new report by Cancer Research UK.
The research, shared exclusively with The Grocer, claims the results show exposure to HFSS ads can equate to youngsters consuming as many as 18,000 extra calories a year.
Coming in the week that PHE revealed separate research showing youngsters were eating up to 500 calories a day too much, the charity claims exposure to advertising is helping create the obesogenic environment and says it supports the idea of a 9pm watershed for all HFSS adverts.
The report, from a YouGov survey of more than 3,300 11-19 year olds, claims to find a “clear, consistent and cumulative risk factor for high junk food consumption amongst young people”.
It found the more junk food ads on TV young people watched, the more HFSS products they were eating. The report said 80% of the 10 food and drink brands young people recalled most frequently had at least one HFSS product in their top sellers.
When asked, more than 40% of respondents said they felt pressured to eat unhealthily.
Report author, head of the policy research centre for cancer prevention at Cancer Research UK Dr Jyotsna Vohra, said the figures showed the need for measures to protect children from HFSS ads.
“A 9pm watershed on TV advert content would be the most effective mechanism to reduce HFSS eating,” she said. “It would mean stricter protections on the shows that children and young people watch the most.
“‘On-demand’ television and, to a lesser extent, radio should be included in the scope of any such update.”
The report comes with sources claiming the government is considering new restrictions on adverts for HFSS foods which would see restriction during children’s TV extended to popular family shows such as The X Factor.
“This research shows that young people feel under pressure to eat unhealthily,” said Cancer Research UK policy manager Malcolm Clark. “We all talk about the obesogenic environment but this report shows what it means in practice if you are a young person. It’s further clear evidence of why the government must look to extend restrictions beyond the existing watershed to protect children from becoming overweight and obese.”