Excess TV Use Leads To Biased Perception Of The Risks Of Fast Food


By Kirsten Cowart

Commercials and TV programs will often display fast food as a way to target young people. While many people feel that the TV can be used to entertain and inform, there is a biased perception being taught about fast food.

Many of these commercials and TV shows say nothing about the risks to your health when you eat fast food.  

A new study found that children who watch a lot of television tend to have a positive perception of fast food. This can negatively impact the behavior and values of these young minds.

If Young People Watch TV, They Think Fast-food Is Good

A new study that is titled,The role of television viewing and direct experience in predicting adolescents’ beliefs about the health risks of fast-food consumption,” was recently published in the journal Appetite. This study looked at the relationship between being exposed to TV and beliefs about fast-food (which is something researchers have never looked into before).

According to the findings, heavy TV viewers tend to believe that eating fast food has more positive than negative consequences when compared to those who don’t watch much TV.

In other words, if your children watch TV a lot, then they are being programmed to believe that fast food is nothing to worry about and as a result, will have no need to consider any health risks. The researchers believe that this biased perception is leading to an increase in fast-food consumption among young children and is also contributing to the obesity crisis.  

Cristel Russell, the researcher and associate professor of Marketing at the American University’s Kogod School of Business and fellow researcher Denise Buhrau from Stony Brook University, conducted a survey that included over 1,000 teenagers.

These teens reported how many hours of TV they watched and their beliefs about fast food. They then asked the teens how much fast food they consumed.

TV also had desensitized these young teens.

The researchers didn’t just find that watching a lot of TV was connected to eating more fast food, but they also found that the teens who watched a lot of TV – but didn’t consume a lot of fast food – were desensitized to the health risks of eating poorly.

“While personal experience of consuming fast food would lead one to more directly witness and believe the negative outcomes associated with its consumption, those with less personal experience are more susceptible to the influences of TV,” said Professor Cristel Russell. “Therefore, we found the strength of the relationship between TV exposure and risk perceptions decreases as actual experience with fast food increases.”

“Given the strong association between TV viewing and unhealthy eating habits among youth, public health researchers and practitioners should carefully monitor and perhaps regulate the amount of fast-food advertising on TV and the content of TV programs,” said Russell.

“Accurate portrayals of food consumption and its consequences are necessary to correct misperceptions among heavy TV viewers. Portrayals of positive food habits, such as the consumption of fruits and vegetables, in youth-oriented programming should also be encouraged, as previous experimental research has shown that such product placements can influence viewers’ attitudes toward healthful food.”

Maybe we all need to to cut back how much we and our children watch TV and make sure that, if we do watch TV, we are also being educated as to how marketing ploys work and focus on understanding risks of unhealthy food.



American University. “Heavy TV watching leads to unhealthy perceptions of fast food health risks.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 October 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151019124029.htm>.lleader_34 (1)

Kirsten Campbell
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Kirsten Campbell

Kirsten Cowart is a writer and researcher that has worked in the spiritual, mental health and medical fields.Kirsten enjoys studying and experiencing the benefits of yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbalism, organic gardening and alternative health.She worked hard in 2014 losing over 40 lbs. and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle.Follow her to learn more about her journey on Twitter, Facebook & Youtube!
Kirsten Campbell
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