Do TV Commercials Increase Your Appetite?

Food commercials on television push us to eat more than our recommended daily intake of salt, fat, sugar and calories.

Watching television can be really dangerous to your health. And it’s not just because we sit for so long – although that’s certainly part of the problem. A recent study revealed just how bad a diet could be if it were based entirely on foods advertised on television (and yes, there are people who actually eat like this).

How bad, you ask? Well, if you were to eat 2000 calories—a modest intake for many, by the way—of food chosen only from those advertised on TV, you’d be digesting 25 times the recommended daily intake of sugar and 20 times the recommended fat intake.

In fact, these foods are so overloaded with fat and sugar that, on average, eating just ONE of the advertised items would put you more than three times above your recommended sugar intake and about 2 ½ times above your recommended fat intake for the entire day. No surprise, either, that you’d also be eating less than half the recommended servings for fruits, vegetables or dairy. When was the last time you saw a food ad urging you to eat your veggies?

And this wasn’t just kids TV advertising that was looked at. Researchers watched 84 hours of primetime and 12 hours of Saturday morning broadcasts, then did a nutritional analysis of all the food items advertised. Along with too much fat and sugar came an excess of salt and cholesterol, followed by a shortage of a bunch of nutrients including calcium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin D and fiber.

It may sound a little far-fetched that people would eat this way day in and day out. Yet when you consider that we spend more on fast food than on higher education, or that about a quarter of the US population visits a fast food restaurant every day, maybe not.

We view an average of six food ads for every hour of television that we watch, but that doesn’t mean we have to eat everything in sight. Next time the food commercials come on, try this: instead of walking to the refrigerator, grab a stick of gum, brush your teeth, or do some sit-ups or push-ups instead.