Obese children influenced by food advertisements

Obese children influenced by food advertisements

Kansas City : MO : USA | Nov 30, 2012 at 11:56 AM PST
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Obese children may be more vulnerable to those food ads than healthy weight children

Today, one in three American kids and teens are overweight or obese, this is nearly triple the rate it was in 1963 and food marketing has been blamed as one of the factors contributing to the problem of obesity in children. Obesity is causing a broad range of health problems according to the American Heart Association and was not previously seen until adulthood. Today children are facing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels along with psychological effects such as depression.

View slideshow: Unhealthy foods that attract kids

Food companies are spending $10 billion dollars in food and beverage advertising that is directed towards children. According to researchers from the University Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center, product branding has a powerful effect on familiarity and preference. Advertising exposes children to more unhealthy foods than healthier ones especially those foods that are energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods.

With that in mind Dr. Amanda S. Bruce, PhD, University of Missouri - Kansas City ·Department of Psychology and associates examined how obese and healthy weight children’s brains activate in response to common food and non-food logos using functional magnetic resonance imaging(fMRI) according to the research introduction.

For the study researchers evaluated twenty children, (10 healthy weight, 10 obese), recruited from local pediatric clinics, aged 10 to 14 years, using self-reported measures of self-control and functional magnetic resonance imaging, Functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI is an MRI that measures brain activity by detecting associated changes in the blood flow.

The children were shown 60 food logos and 60 nonfood logos, and functional magnetic resonance imaging scans obtained with a 3-Tesla Siemans Allegra scanner that indicated which sections of the brain reacted to the familiar logos being shown.

Dr. Bruce states “We were interested in how brain responses to food logos would differ between obese and healthy weight children.”

The results revealed obese children had greater activation in some reward regions of the brain in comparison to healthy weight children when the food logo was displayed. When it came to healthy weight children they showed greater brain activation in the brain regions associated to self-control when they were shown food verses non-food logos. In general, healthy weight children had reported more self-control in comparison to obese children.

In their discussion researchers note that” this study suggests that obese children may be more susceptible to the effects of food marketing and branding. “

In closing Dr. Bruce states “One of the keys to improving health-related decision-making may be found in the ability to improve self-control.” Self-control training may be a beneficial addition to obesity and behavioral health interventions, and may lead to greater success in weight loss.

This study is scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics.

In a UCLA study of the association between television viewing and childhood obesity directly related to children's exposure to commercials that advertise unhealthy foods revealed that by the age of five children have seen an average of more than 4,000 television commercials for food annually. During Saturday morning cartoons, children see an average of one food ad every five minutes. Up to 95% of the food in these ads had poor nutritional value.

Some ways parents can combat junk food ads can be viewed online at Common Sense Media.


Associated Article; Bisphenol A the culprit in child and adolescent obesity

Debbie Nicholson is based in Detroit, Michigan, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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