Obese children more susceptible to food advertising

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As childhood obesity rates continue to skyrocket in the US, health advocacy groups are putting more pressure on media to stop promoting unhealthy diets.

And a new study reveals just how dangerous commercials and advertisements are--especially for children who are already obese. The research, published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that obese kids are more susceptible to the messages in food advertising.

Brain activity heightened by food logos

By studying brain activity, researchers found that obese children showed more stimulation in the center of the brain that deals with pleasure and reward while seeing images of popular food logos, like those of Pepsi, Cheerios or Cap'n Crunch. Non-obese children, in contrast, showed brain stimulation in a completely different area of the brain when viewing these same logos--the part that rules self-control.

The study supports the current theory that obese children struggle with self-control when it comes to eating--much like a drug addict would with drugs--because of their different brain patterns.

Study author Dr. Amanda Bruce says the research sheds light on the ethics of food advertising, especially given the rising rates of obesity-related illness and diabetes.

"I think it raises the question, and it's a difficult question, of how ethical is it to advertise unhealthy food products to children, especially when we see that obese children are potentially more vulnerable to this type of advertising."

Marketing unhealthy foods

According to Bruce, companies spend more than $10 billion on food and drink ads targeting children, and nearly all of them--98 percent--are for products that are high in sugar, fat or sodium. Marketing, Bruce notes, can have a huge impact on the popularity of foods among children.

"In the 1950s and '60s, the favorite vegetable of children in the United States was spinach. That was because of Popeye. Even then we see marketing having a huge influence," said Bruce.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one-third of all U.S. children are obese.

Source: Ozarks First

 
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