Banning online junk food adverts could lead to UK children eating the equivalent of 62 million fewer doughnuts every year – enough to fill 88 skips a week, according to health organisations.
Campaigners are urging the Government to go ahead with a total restriction on junk food adverts online.
Analysis by the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) suggests ending the ads could benefit the UK’s children by removing the equivalent of 150 million chocolate biscuits or 41 million cheeseburgers a year from their diets.
It follows the Government announcing in November its intention to ban HFSS products being shown on TV and online before 9pm.
The Government has also consulted on going further with a complete restriction on HFSS adverts online due to concern about the number of the ads children see and the impact this has on what they eat.
Research by the NHS has found that one in three children leave primary school overweight, or obese, and almost two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity.
Seeing just one minute of unhealthy food advertising can lead to children eating an additional 14.2 calories, previous research suggests.
The OHA warned that this could easily lead to excess weight in children as it can take as little as 46 additional calories every day to put on weight.
OHA spokeswoman Caroline Cerny said: “Whether they are scrolling social media, following their favourite influencers or simply researching their homework, children can’t escape the endless and creative adverts and endorsements for junk food.
“If the Government is at all serious about addressing obesity, it must take unhealthy food out of the spotlight and introduce regulation so only healthier food adverts can be shown. Failing to tackle online advertising will hugely undermine other measures to protect children from marketing.”
John Maingay, director of policy at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Sadly, children who live with obesity are more likely to become adults with obesity, increasing their risk of a heart attack or stroke.
“This striking analysis shows children’s health stands to substantially benefit from a restriction on online junk food advertising. The Government must fully embrace this measure to give children the healthiest start in life.”