Not necessarily, but the correlation between television programming, unhealthy food advertising, and the priming effects the two have on the eating behavior of kids aged six- to twelve-years-old, is becoming increasingly unmistakable. Television advertising for decades has made it both convenient and commonplace to market a swell of traditionally gummy, sugary, and fatty foodstuffs to viewers most likely to consume it. But concern over healthy advertising -- that is, online or television commercials that do or do not actively promote unhealthy food products -- remains a topic of interest in as many family rooms, court rooms, school yards, and Congressional hearings as ever.
Now, in order for a cartoon character's face to be splashed across sponsored packaging, some snack foods must place under a certain number of total calories, have a percentage fat intake that meets network standards, or in the case of a beverage, have a certain percentage of one or more natural vitamins, such as A or C. The conflict over dietary guidelines has since lost cable programming some of its largest and most key advertising groups; while other companies simply take their promotional funds elsewhere (or to other distribution platforms).
But for concerned parents, it's about more than what the children's cable channel decides what is or isn't appropriate. Studies suggest that increased exposure to junk food products on television, aired during children's programming, is having an immediate and recognizable impact on the diet of kids. Previous experiments have been published seeking answers to questions about the latent effects of food advertising, or how far out of one's awareness said latency occurs. Now, researchers at Yale University have authored a new study highlighting what it believes is "a direct causal link between food advertising and unhealthy diets," which for children, cartoons may be the culprits.
"Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behavior" from Harris et al. declares, through direct analysis of child and adult experiments, that snack food advertising or commercial broadcasts of unhealthy food products increase automated snacking, irregardless of the individual's previously assessed appetite.
Regarding elementary school-aged, the study sought to clarify that the consumption of any available food can be sparked, encouraged, and sustained by specific food advertising.