Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, and a new study finds that all of those fast-food commercials you see on TV that are clearly aimed at young children are working, and they are compounding the obesity problem.
According to Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth University researchers, kids who watched television channels that aired fast-food commercials were more likely to eat at fast-food restaurants with their families.
Researchers gathered information from a database that compiled all fast-food TV ads that aired nationally in 2009. The team found that 79% of the ads aired on 4 networks that were aimed at youngsters came from only 2 major chains: Burger King and McDonald’s. 
The study involved 100 children between the ages of 3 and 7, plus one of their parents. The parents answered questions about how often their children watched Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, Cartoon Network and the Disney channel. Thirty-seven percent of the parents said they tended to frequent fast-food joints with child-directed TV ads. Another 54% of the children also requested visits to at least one of the restaurants, and of the 29% of children who collected toys from the chains, about 83% asked to go to one or both of the restaurants. 
The study is published in The Journal of Pediatrics.
Oh, McDonald’s. The chain will stop at nothing to get to kids. The Washington Post reported on October 29 about how the fast-food monster has been showing a documentary in schools about a 280-pound Iowan teacher who lost 56 pounds after eating nothing but McDonald’s food, adhering to certain calorie limits and exercising regularly for 6 months. He’s become somewhat of a “brand ambassador” for the company, much like Subway’s Jared did before it came out that he’s a pervert. The teacher travels around the country telling students that McDonald’s is a super healthy way to stay in shape.
You can lose weight eating anything, but that doesn’t mean you won’t clog your arteries in the process.
But those are the minor details that fast-food commercials leave out. These companies have figured out that if they wave some French fries and cheap toy in front of kids’ faces, they’ll have them eating out of their hand.
We reported in September that more than 1 in 3 children and teens ages 2 to 19 eat some type of fast-food every day, and more than 12% of these kids get more than 40% of their daily calories from fast-food. It doesn’t matter if the children come from low-income or wealthy families.
McDonald’s needs to lure children into their restaurants with toys now more than ever before, as the company has suffered a series of significant financial losses recently.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.