Advertisements have more influence on children's food choices than their parents, according to a study from Texas.

The study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, was conducted by Christopher J. Ferguson of Texas A&M International University in Laredo and his colleagues.

Seventy-five children aged 3 to 8 years were shown a series of cartoon programs with embedded commercials. One group of children saw a commercial for apple slices with dipping sauce and the other group saw a commercial for French fries. After watching the cartoons and commercials, the children were allowed to select a coupon for one of the advertised food items, with advice from their parents.

The study reported that among the children who saw the commercial for French fries, 71 per cent chose that coupon when their parents remained neutral. At the same time only 55 per cent opted for the French fries coupon when their parents encouraged them to choose the healthy food. The study specially noted that there was only slight ability for parental input to moderate the advertising influence.

Although advertising impact on children's food choices is moderate in size, it appears resilient to parental efforts to intervene. Food advertisements directed at children may have a small but meaningful effect on their healthy food choices, the authors write.

At the same time, parents have an advantage if they are consistent with their long-term messages about healthy eating, said  Ferguson. Children were clearly influenced by the commercials they saw; however, parents are not powerless.