Obese Children More Vulnerable to Food Advertising

By Alexandra Williams, MA on Feb 18, 2013

When viewing food logos, obese children show less activity in regions of the brain associated with self-control than do their healthy-weight counterparts, reports The Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and the University of Kansas Medical Center tested youth aged 10–14, using both self-reported measures of self-control and functional magnetic resonance imaging, which tracks blood flow as a measure of brain activity.

MRI scans were taken of the children while they looked at 60 food logos and 60 nonfood logos, with the scans indicating which parts of the brain were reacting to the logos. When viewing the food logos, the obese children showed more activation in some reward regions of the brain, while the healthy-weight children showed more activation in regions linked to self-control. This paralleled the self-reports, with the healthy-weight children reporting a
higher level of self-control.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that obese children may be more vulnerable to the effects of food advertising, and recommended adding self-control training to the health interventions being used to help obese children with weight loss.

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Alexandra Williams, MA

Alexandra Williams has taught fitness for 17 years and has a master’s degree in agency counseling, with an emphasis on marriage and family. Her professional training has forced her to scrutinize her own value system, especially as she attempts to raise ethical children. The author wishes to thank Jack Raglin and Jim Gavin for their helpful insights and suggestions.

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