A report by cancer charity Cancer Research UK found that teenagers who watched more than three hours of commercial TV a day were more likely to snack on junk food.
The new report, which is the biggest ever UK study to look at a link between TV streaming and diet, is based on a YouGov survey which questioned 3,348 young people in the UK between the ages of 11 and 19.
The results revealed that being exposed to TV advertisements for unhealthy, high-calorie food could lead teens to eat more of these types of products, with the team finding that teens who watch TV could eat as much as 500 or more extra snacks throughout the course of a year compared to those who watch less TV.
Teens who reported regularly streaming TV shows with ads were also more than twice as likely (139%) to drink fizzy drinks and 65% more likely to eat more ready meals compared to someone who streamed less TV and was exposed to fewer ads.
After finding that teenagers who watched TV with no ads showed no increased likelihood of eating more junk food, the team suggest that it is the adverts on commercial TV that are encouraging young people to eat more unhealthy food.
Regularly eating high-calorie food and drink -- which are usually high in fat and sugar -- increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese, with obesity the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking, being linked to 13 types of cancer including bowel, breast, and pancreatic.
Lead author Dr. Jyotsna Vohra commented on the findings saying, "This is the strongest evidence yet that junk food adverts could increase how much teens choose to eat. We're not claiming that every teenager who watches commercial TV will gorge on junk food but this research suggests there is a strong association between advertisements and eating habits."