Study finds food commercials excite teen brains, study shows

May 8, 2013
Food commercials excite teen brains

(Medical Xpress)—Watching TV commercials of people munching on hot, crispy French fries or sugar-laden cereal resonates more with teens than advertisements about cell phone plans or the latest car.

A new University of Michigan study found that regardless of body weight, teens had high brain activity during food commercials compared to nonfood commercials.

"It appears that is better at getting into the mind and memory of kids," said Ashley Gearhardt, U-M assistant professor of psychology and the study's lead author. "This makes sense because our brains are hard-wired to get excited in response to delicious foods."

Children see thousands of commercials each year designed to increase their desire for foods high in sugar, fat and salt. Researchers from U-M, the Oregon Research Institute and Yale University analyzed how the advertising onslaught affects the brain.

Thirty teenagers (ages 14-17) ranging from normal weight to obese watched a television show with . Their brain activity was measured with a functional scanner.

The video showed 20 food commercials and 20 nonfood commercials featuring major brands such as McDonald's, Cheerios, AT&T and Allstate Insurance. Study participants were asked to list five commercials they saw and to rate how much they liked the product or company featured in the ads.

Regions of the brain linked to attention, reward and taste were active for all participants, especially when food commercials aired. Overall, they recalled and liked food commercials better than nonfood commercials.

Teens whose weight was considered normal had greater reward-related when viewing the food commercials compared to obese adolescents. Gearhardt said this suggests that all teenagers, even those who are not currently overweight, are affected by food advertising and that exposure could lead to future weight gain in normal weight youth.

The study concluded that obese participants may attempt to control their response to food commercials, which might alter the way their brain responds. But if these teens are bombarded with frequent food cues, their self-control might falter—especially if they feel stressed, hungry or depressed.

Gearhardt said brain regions that are more responsive in lean adolescents during food commercials have been linked with future weight gain. These findings, which appear in the current issue of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, may inform the current debates about the impact of food advertising on minors.

Explore further: Reward sensitivity increases food 'wanting' following television 'junk food' commercials

More information: scan.oxfordjournals.org/search … t&submit=yes&x=0&y=0

Related Stories

Reward sensitivity increases food 'wanting' following television 'junk food' commercials

July 10, 2012
Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, sought to investigate personality ...

Is TV the temptress for junk food?

August 6, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A University of Queensland study has found that while obesity rates have been partly attributed to the easy access of cheap, high calorie food, many individuals exposed to the same food continue to lie ...

Obese children more vulnerable to food advertising

November 30, 2012
Rates of childhood obesity have tripled in the past 30 years, and food marketing has been implicated as one factor contributing to this trend. Every year, companies spend more than $10 billion in the US marketing their food ...

TV food advertising increases children's preference for unhealthy foods

June 30, 2011
Researchers at the University of Liverpool have found that children who watch adverts for unhealthy food on television are more likely to want to eat high-fat and high-sugar foods.

Study suggests children's food choices are affected by direct advertising and parental influence

October 6, 2011
Directly advertising food items to children worries many parents and health care providers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have expressed concern about the negative impact ...

Recommended for you

Scientists chart how brain signals connect to neurons

December 14, 2017
Scientists at Johns Hopkins have used supercomputers to create an atomic scale map that tracks how the signaling chemical glutamate binds to a neuron in the brain. The findings, say the scientists, shed light on the dynamic ...

Journaling inspires altruism through an attitude of gratitude

December 14, 2017
Gratitude does more than help maintain good health. New research at the University of Oregon finds that regularly noting feelings of gratitude in a journal leads to increased altruism.

Gene mutation causes low sensitivity to pain

December 13, 2017
A UCL-led research team has identified a rare mutation that causes one family to have unusually low sensitivity to pain.

Activating MSc glutamatergic neurons found to cause mice to eat less

December 13, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers working at the State University of New York has found that artificially stimulating neurons that exist in the medial septal complex in mouse brains caused test mice to eat less. In ...

Scientists discover blood sample detection method for multiple sclerosis

December 13, 2017
A method for quickly detecting signs of multiple sclerosis has been developed by a University of Huddersfield research team.

LLNL-developed microelectrodes enable automated sorting of neural signals

December 13, 2017
Thin-film microelectrode arrays produced at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have enabled development of an automated system to sort brain activity by individual neurons, a technology that could open the door ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.