Obese Children’s Brains are more at Risk to Food Logos

If your child is overweight or obese, you may be concerned about what caused his or her weight gain. A new study has shown that how companies market food to you and your child could make all the difference to their weight and mental wellbeing.


Of all the food products marketed to children via television, 98% are high in fat, sugar, or sodium. Every year, companies spend billions marketing their food and beverages to children, and this could be a major contributing factor to why rates of childhood obesity have tripled in the past 30 years. The study comes from Amanda S. Bruce, PhD, and colleagues from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Centre, who aimed to study the effects of food logos on obese and healthy weight children. According to Bruce, ‘We were interested in how brain responses to food logos would differ between obese and healthy weight children.’


Researchers used self-reported measures of self-control, and functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess 10 healthy weight and 10 obese children, aged 10-14. The children were shown 60 food logos and 60 non-food logos, and functional magnetic resonance imaging scans, which use blood flow as a measure of brain activity, indicated which sections of the brain reacted to the familiar logos being shown.


The results were that some reward regions of the brain were activated more so in obese children than healthy weight children, whereas healthy weight children showed greater brain activation in regions of the brain associated with self-control, when shown food versus non-food logos. This adds to a developing body of research that shows that brain activity could be a factor in your child’s weight gain, as in certain situations, healthy weight individuals experience greater activation of control regions of the brain than obese individuals.


Dr. Bruce concluded that ‘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’. Self-control training may be an effective additional tool in obesity and behavioural wellness education, and may lead to greater success in weight loss.

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