A new study shows that parents who watch a lot of television are more likely to feed their children junk food.

In a study from the University of Michigan, researchers show that parents indulging in heavy television viewing are more likely to feed their children junk food. As a result of this, children grow up to have an indistinct view of healthy food. Kristen Harrison and Mericarmen Peralta from the University of Michigan, conducted interviews of over 100 parents noting their children's dietary habits and media exposure of both parent and child.

Through this study, Harrison and Peralta wanted to learn about the influence of family characteristics on children's dietary intake and their true idea of healthy meals. Researchers also interviewed pre-school children to get their understanding of a healthy meal and compared that with their family characteristics.

Heavy advertising and marketing of foods high in calories sugars, salt and fat, and low in nutrients leads to a distorted idea of healthy diet. Consumption of junk food leads to overweight and obesity in children. Childhood obesity is the number one concern for parents in the U.S., according to American Heart Association.

In this study, researchers looked at media-junk association among food-secure and food-insecure people. Researchers found that the media-junk association was very strong in food-secure people than food-insecure ones as food insecurity is directly linked to limited income. The media-junk association was almost zero in food-insecure people, according to the study. Through recorded TV and advertisements, food-secure people fulfill their desire and are likely to consume more junk food. Children of these families also have a distorted view about healthy diet.

Harrison noted that children learn about food diet from family, media and other sources and tend to carry this information in the future when they are grown enough to make their own decisions. Hence, it is very important that the right message is communicated to children from the beginning so they make right choices later.

"The preschool years are especially important, because the adiposity rebound in kids who grow up to be normal weight tends to be around age 5 or 6, whereas for kids to grow up to be obese, it happens closer to 3," Harrison said in a press release. "We need to know as much as we can about the factors that encourage obesogenic eating during the preschool years, even if that eating doesn't manifest as obesity until the child is older."

The findings of the study will be presented at the 63rd Annual International Communication Association conference in London.