CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts: Banning TV ads for junk food in the US could reduce the number of obese young children by 18%, and lead to a 14% fall among older children, according to new research funded by the country's government.

Around a third of children in the US are thought to be overweight or obese, and the report produced by the National Bureau of Economic Research  suggests junk food ads are one key explanatory variable behind this trend.

Says Michael Grossman, an economics professor at City University, New York, and one of the report's authors: "Our study provides evidence of that link."

Income levels, the locality of fast-food restaurants and inactivity among children are among the other factors argued to play a significant role.

The report, however, argues against a prohibition on junk food ads, as some viewers benefit from the information they contain, such as details regarding what food is available on restaurant menus.
Grossman, who co-authored the paper with scholars from Lehigh University and Georgia State University, argues: "A lot of people consume fast food in moderate amounts and it doesn't harm their health."

Government survey data, including thousands of face-to-face interviews, plus figures that identify which ads were aired in the nation's 75 largest TV markets and the audience they reached, were among the statistics that informed the study.

Data sourced from USA Today; additional content by WARC staff