Unhealthy' image influences adolescents' food choices

November 5, 2015
Unhealthy’ image influences adolescents’ food choices

Adolescents more readily choose an unhealthy snack if they've been shown a picture of, for example, crisps or chocolate. This is the main finding of research conducted among Amsterdam schoolchildren by researchers from the University of Amsterdam and Leiden University. Their results once again reafirm the negative effects of adverts on the unhealthy behavioural choices of children. The results will soon be published in the journal Appetite.

The rate of obesity among Dutch children is expected to increase in the coming years. Although one in seven children under the age of 13 is currently considered to be obese, this is exactly the age group specifically targeted by adverts for such as and candy. The researchers therefore studied the possible underlying mechanism that forms the basis for the effects of adverts and the exposure to foods in the food choices of teenagers.

As part of the study, a group of Amsterdam teenagers between the age of 12 and 16 were asked to perform a computerised task for which they could earn a reward. During the task, the test subjects could choose between two buttons, one of which, for example, led to a picture of crisps and the other to a picture of a cucumber. While the teenagers were busy pressing the buttons, a cartoon image of monsters would appear every so often on the screen which, by means of Pavlovian conditioning, were associated with (crisps and chocolate) and healthy alternatives (cucumbers and tomatoes).

Especially susceptible to unhealthy stimuli

The results showed that unhealthy stimuli, in this case pictures, have a powerful influence on behavioural decision-making. When shown a monster that was indirectly associated with crisps, the teenagers were indeed more prone to choose crisps. The same effect was achieved when a picture of crisps was shown directly. The same happened with healthy stimuli, but the effect was generally less powerful.

'Our research once again reafirms the negative effect that unhealthy food advertisements have on the decision-making behaviour of children. The fight against obesity requires an environment that specifically focuses on healthy alternatives', says Sanne de Wit, one of the researchers.

More research needs to be done into the mechanism behind decision-making behaviour. The researchers believe that ' responses are triggered automatically by such as images.

Explore further: Celebrity endorsement encourages children to eat junk food

More information: P. Watson et al. An associative account of how the obesogenic environment biases adolescents' food choices, Appetite (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.10.008

Related Stories

Celebrity endorsement encourages children to eat junk food

March 8, 2013
A study by the University of Liverpool has found that celebrity endorsement of a food product encourages children to eat more of the endorsed product. It also found that children were prompted to eat more of the endorsed ...

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.

Even a little is too much: One junk food snack triggers signals of metabolic disease

November 2, 2015
We hate to ruin Thanksgiving, but a new report appearing in the Nov. 2015 issue of The FASEB Journal suggests that for some people, overindulgence at the dinner table or at snack time is enough to trigger signs of metabolic ...

Memories influence choice of food

May 21, 2015
The stronger our memory is of a certain food, the more likely we are to choose it - even if it is the more unattractive option. Psychologists at the University of Basel conducted a study on how memory influences our choices ...

New regulations fail to make TV food adverts healthier for children

February 15, 2012
Despite new regulations restricting UK TV advertisements for food, children are still exposed to the same level of advertising for junk foods which are high in fat, salt and sugar, researchers have found.

Help for European children to resist unhealthy temptations

November 30, 2012
Children and young people in Europe are exposed to all kinds of fast food, crisps and fizzy drinks – so how can they learn to resist the temptation to indulge?

Recommended for you

Breathing dirty air may harm kidneys, study finds

September 21, 2017
Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study now adds kidney disease to the list, according to ...

Excess dietary manganese promotes staph heart infection

September 21, 2017
Too much dietary manganese—an essential trace mineral found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and nuts—promotes infection of the heart by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus ("staph").

Being active saves lives whether a gym workout, walking to work or washing the floor

September 21, 2017
Physical activity of any kind can prevent heart disease and death, says a large international study involving more than 130,000 people from 17 countries published this week in The Lancet.

Frequent blood donations safe for some, but not all

September 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—Some people may safely donate blood as often as every eight weeks—but that may not be a healthy choice for all, a new study suggests.

Higher manganese levels in children correlate with lower IQ scores, study finds

September 21, 2017
A study led by environmental health researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine finds that children in East Liverpool, Ohio with higher levels of Manganese (Mn) had lower IQ scores. The research appears ...

One e-cigarette with nicotine leads to adrenaline changes in nonsmokers' hearts

September 20, 2017
A new UCLA study found that healthy nonsmokers experienced increased adrenaline levels in their heart after one electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) with nicotine but there were no increased adrenaline levels when the study ...

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.