Food Advertising Contributes to Obesity in Children

First Posted: Dec 02, 2012 10:01 PM EST

Obesity has been labelled as one of the most serious and growing public health issue. Nearly six percent of the global population is in United States but hosts a third of worlds obese. The statistics of the U.S obesity have been gradually inclining towards to the higher end.   The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has indicated that an estimated 42 percent of Americans will be obese by the year 2030. 

The recent study has identified the food marketing as one of the contributing factor to this trend. It is reported that the companies spend more than $10 billion in the U.S. marketing their food and beverages to children. Out of which nearly 98 percent of the food products advertised to children on television are high in fat, sugar, or sodium.

The researchers have come with this finding with the help of neuroimaging. They carefully studied the effects of food logos on obese and healthy weight children with neuroimaging.

This study was conducted by Amanda S. Bruce, PhD, and colleagues from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center.

For this study the researchers assessed nearly 10 healthy weight and 10 obese children who belonged to the age group of 10-14 years. This was done with the help of both self control and functional magnetic resonace imaging.

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

In this they were shown 60 food logos and 60 nonfood logos, and functional magnetic resonance imaging scans indicated which sections of the brain reacted to the familiar logos being shown.

On producing the food logos, they noticed that obese children showed greater activation in some reward regions of the brain than healthy weight children.  Healthy weight children showed greater brain activation in regions of the brain associated with self-control, when shown food versus nonfood logos. 

Healthy weight children self-reported more self-control than the obese children. This study supports the fact that in certain situations healthy weight individuals experience greater activation of control regions of the brain than obese individuals.

"This study provides preliminary evidence that obese children may be more vulnerable to the effects of food advertising. One of the keys to improving health-related decision-making may be found in the ability to improve self-control," notes Dr. Bruce.

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

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