Children are powerfully influenced by food advertisements, according to a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, raising worries of many parents and health providers about the negative impact of advertising on children’s healthy food choices.

According to a study made by Texas A&M International University, the messages of fast food commercials have a "considerable" influence on children. However, researchers emphasized that parents can play an important role in encouraging their kids to eat healthy.

"Children were clearly influenced by the commercials they saw; however, parents are not powerless," Dr. Christopher Ferguson from Texas A&M International University stated. "Parents have an advantage if they are consistent with their long-term messages about healthy eating."

The study included 75 children ranging in age from 3 to 5 years. All of the children watched a series of two cartoons, with commercials shown between each cartoon. The children were divided into two groups; half of the children watched a commercial for French fries, and the other half watched a commercial for apple slices with dipping sauce.

After watching the cartoons and commercials, the children were allowed to choose a coupon for either advertised food with input from their parents, half of whom encouraged their child to choose the healthy option, and the other half remained neutral.

Of the children who viewed the commercial for French fries, 71 percent chose the coupon for French fries if their parents remained neutral. However, the number only dropped to 55 percent when the children were encouraged by their parents to choose the healthier option.

“Parental encouragement to eat healthy was somewhat able to help undo the message of commercials, although the effects of parents were smaller than we had anticipated,” Dr. Ferguson said.

Of the children who viewed the commercial for apple slices with dipping sauce, only 46 percent picked French fries when their parents remained neutral; this number dropped to 33 percent when their parents encouraged them to pick the healthier option.

Rather than seeking to ban advertisements to children, researchers suggest that politicians, advocates, and food producers concentrate on ways to promote the advertisement of healthy food options.

"Advertisement effects can work both for and against healthy eating," Dr. Ferguson said.