In not-so-great news to send you into the weekend, researchers have determined that obese and overweight children are more susceptible to food advertising than children of average weight.
Researchers from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center, who published their work in the Journal of Pediatrics, say this is the first conclusive evidence that obese children are more vulnerable to food advertising.
The study (which was very small, at only ten children) used self-reported measures of self control, as well as functional magnetic resonance imaging (an MRI procedure that measures blood flow to certain parts of the brain in response to stimuli). Researchers looked at children’s reactions to food ads targeted specifically to children.
The kids (in two groups) were shown 60 food logos and 60 non-food logos. According to Examiner.com:
When obese children saw food logos the flood flow to areas of the brain that involve reward increased. When average weight children saw the same food logos, blood flow to the regions of the brain that involve self control increased.
Researchers urge parents to limit their children’s exposure to advertising, especially that of children who are overweight.
Sigh. With evidence mounting about the poor quality of the American diet (not to mention skyrocketing rates of obesity; did you know childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years?), it’s becoming clear that this is a problem that has grown out of control. Companies are still advertising high-fat, sugar-laden foods to children and this study proves that children are listening, receiving these harmful messages from the media and the advertising industry. Sure, parents can help by reinforcing good nutrition and offering healthy foods at home, but if children (especially already at-risk ones like overweight kids) are so clearly affected by these kinds of advertisements, we need to be asking ourselves what we can do to lessen these kinds of messages in the larger span of American culture.