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Food Advertising Tempts Obese Children More: Study

Update Date: Nov 30, 2012 09:09 AM EST

There must hardly be anyone who does not get tempted by delicious images of tasty food shown on television. While this seems perfectly normal for everyone irrespective of their body mass, a new research suggests that obese children may be more vulnerable to such advertisements.

 Childhood obesity is a growing concern among doctors and researchers

Obesity rates among children have grown three-fold in the last three decades and the food and beverages industry is one of the major factors responsible for the same.

Each year, companies apparently spend more than $10 billion in the US for marketing food products and beverages to children. Ninety eight percent of the food products targeted at children are full of fat, sugar or sodium content, Medical Xpress reports.

In order to study the effects of food logos on healthy and obese children, researchers used neuroimaging in the current study.

Amanda S. Bruce, PhD, and colleagues from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center assessed

10 healthy weight and 10 obese children, aged between 10 and 14 years with the help of self reported data and MRI scans to check their self-control.

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

The participant children in the study were shown 60 food logos and 60 nonfood logos, and with the help of MRI, researchers could determine which parts of the brain in children got activated in response to which logo.

It was found that the brains of obese children showed greater activation in some reward regions of the brain than healthy weight children when food logos were shown to them.

On the other hand, in healthy weight children, parts of the brain associated with self-control showed more activation, when shown food versus nonfood logos.

In all, healthy weight seemed to display more self-control than obese children.

"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.

It may be beneficial to obese children if they are given self-control training as well, apart from obesity and behavioral health interventions.

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

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