Obese Kids Love Junk Food Advertisements
    By News Staff | November 30th 2012 08:30 AM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Can advertising make kids fat? 

    Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years and food marketing has been implicated as one factor contributing to this trend.  A week after the Hostess company, makers of Twinkies, went bankrupt, a member of Congress tried to raise unemployment even more and kill the entire industry by proposing elimination of marketing as a legitimate expense.

    Every year, companies spend more than $10 billion in the US marketing their food and beverages to children and 98% of the food products advertised to children on television are high in fat, sugar, or sodium. In a new study, researchers used neuroimaging to look at the effects of food logos on obese and healthy weight children.

    No surprise, 10 obese kids were delighted to look at logos of food brands they like.

    They assessed - and you see the problem right away, just seeing that term - 10 healthy weight and 10 obese children, ages 10-14 years, using both self-reported measures of self-control and functional magnetic resonance imaging, which uses blood flow as a measure of brain activity. The children 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.

    Obese children showed greater activation in some reward regions of the brain than healthy weight children when shown the food logos. Healthy weight children showed greater brain activation in regions of the brain associated with self-control, when shown food versus nonfood logos. Overall, healthy weight children self-reported more self-control than the obese children which led the psychologists to conclude that showing that in certain situations, healthy weight individuals experience greater activation of control regions of the brain than obese individuals.

    Which we knew. Cigarette smokers also have greater activation of brain regions than non-smokers when looking at cigarettes but that does not mean cigarette advertising makes them smoke.  Claiming advertising is the culprit would mean utensil advertisers should be showing commercials of spoons on Cartoon Network.

    Upcoming in The Journal of Pediatrics


    The American Psychological Association states the following on their website regarding the impact of food advertising on children:

    “Today’s children, ages 8 to 18, consume multiple types of media (often simultaneously) and spend more time (44.5 hours per week) in front of computer, television, and game screens than any other activity in their lives except sleeping. Research has found strong associations between increases in advertising for non-nutritious foods and rates of childhood obesity. Most children under age 6 cannot distinguish between programming and advertising and children under age 8 do not understand the persuasive intent of advertising. Advertising directed at children this young is by its very nature exploitative. Children have a remarkable ability to recall content from the ads to which they have been exposed. Product preference has been shown to occur with as little as a single commercial exposure and to strengthen with repeated exposures. Product preferences affect children's product purchase requests and these requests influence parents' purchasing decisions.”

    I would like to recommend parents review the free NAAFA Child Advocacy ToolkitSM (CATK). The total health of our nation's children is a serious responsibility.

    The NAAFA Child Advocacy Toolkit shows how Health At Every Size® takes the focus off weight and directs it to healthful eating and enjoyable movement. It addresses the impact of the media, bullying, building positive self-image and eliminating stigmatization of large children. Additionally, the CATK lists resources available to parents and educators or caregivers for educational materials, curriculum and programming that is beneficial for all children. It can be found at:

    That statement could apply to anyone - applied psychology is the only part of psychology that we know works, that is why advertising is a $100 billion industry and young people working for minimum wage spend money on an iPad. Selling an alternative using marketing is exactly what you are doing, you just rationalize that you are ethically superior.
    Were all the kids INSTRUCTED to inhibit their responses to the food logo cues? Were the kids given food cues other than logos?

    WHY would ANY kid choose to inhibit their response (self-control) to palatable food cues? "Self-control" is a high executive function located in the pre-frontal cortex. The "I want it" response to food cues is basic instinct, a lower brain function.

    Are some kids (overweight) more likely to over-respond to food cues? Food cues other than logos?

    Were the normal-weight kids exhibiting "self-control" to the junk food logos because they had been taught that those foods are "bad"?

    Were the overweight kids over-responding to the junk food logos because they had experienced food restrictions that caused a "forbidden fruit" response?

    Either the reporting or the study itself was really, really poor.