How Ads for Junk Food Change Kids’ Brains
We all know that TV commercials for the latest must-have toy can make children everywhere turn to their caregivers with pleas of, "I want that!" Now, thanks to a new study, we know that commercials for unhealthy food affects the activity in kids' brains, leading to impulsive food choices. Food marketing affects both familiarity and preference, according to researchers.
Preschoolers view about 1000 commercials for food every year, and teens view almost 2000. Earlier studies indicated that these ads do indeed work—children exposed to ads for certain food brands are more likely to prefer those brands than children who are not exposed to the advertising. Additional research has also shown a connection between the influence of food branding and childhood obesity and has identified changes in the brain related to cues like fast food brand logos and taglines.
This latest study focused on children between the ages of eight and 14. Functional MRI scans were used to measure brain activity while the children made food choices after watching TV commercials for food and other products. After watching the commercials for food, the reward center of the brain was more active, leading study participants to make food choices based on perceived tastiness, rather than nutrition.
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