Junk food advertising restrictions on Transport for London (TfL) networks have prevented nearly 100,000 cases of obesity, research suggests.
The advertising policy, in effect since 2019, could save the NHS more than £200 million, researchers say.
They estimate that the policy has directly resulted in 94,867 fewer cases of obesity than expected (a decrease of 4.8%), 2,857 fewer cases of diabetes and 1,915 fewer cases of cardiovascular disease.
The rule restricts the advertising of foods high in calories from sugar and fat or high in salt.
The analysis by the University of Sheffield and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) estimated that the policy would save the NHS £218 million over the lifetime of the current population.
Scientists assessed the effect of the policy by looking at what consumers buy in their weekly food stores through surveys, and comparing trends in London with a control group of households outside London where there were no restrictions on advertising.
They said their findings show that the policies have had the greatest impact on people from disadvantaged areas in terms of preventing health problems.
Despite middle-income earners saving more calories, researchers argue that the policies have had a greater impact on the most deprived areas because “people from those areas tend to be less healthy.”
The study is published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
dr. Chloe Thomas, lead author of the study from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research, said: “We all know how persuasive and powerful advertising can be in influencing what we buy, especially the food we eat.
“Our research has shown what an important tool advertising restrictions can be in helping people live healthier lives without costing them more money.
“We hope that demonstrating the significant benefits of the policy in preventing obesity and the diseases exacerbated by obesity will lead to it being rolled out nationally.”