Not everyone knows it, but ads have a deep impact in our daily lives. What we wear, we eat, or even do everyday may have rooted from that one commercial we saw. It appears, ads don't only affect consumerism, but also the health of individuals. In one study, experts say that letting your kids watch fast food advertisements may put them at higher risk for obesity.
Researchers at Dartmouth learned that children with a genetic risk for obesity had greater activity in brain reward centers when watching fast food commercials. Their work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"By examining the still-developing brain and its reward-related structures, our findings help explain why children who are genetically at-risk for obesity may be prone to over-eating unhealthy foods," author, Kristina M. Rapuano, a graduate student in the Brain Imaging Lab in the department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College, said in an interview
In a test conducted to 78 children ages nine to 12 years old, experts asked the participants to watch 12 minutes of commercial breaks. Half were advertisements for fast food and the other half for non-food items.
Researchers used MRI scanners to monitor the children's brain activity, but made sure they simulated the experience of watching TV at home.
The experts have learned that children's nucleus accumbens, a region in the brain commonly associated with reward craving, was not only physically larger in children with the obesity-risk FTO genotype compared to genetically low-risk children but also showed a stronger craving response to the food commercials.
"About one-third of commercials children see on network television are food advertisements, and each one is a prompt to eat," senior author, Diane Gilbert-Diamond, assistant professor of Epidemiology at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine and member of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, told the Medical Xpress
. "We know from our prior work that children with this same genetic obesity risk factor are more likely to overeat after watching food advertisements on TV, even when they are not hungry. The brain scans suggest that these children may be especially vulnerable to food cues, and that limiting food advertisement exposure could be an effective way to combat child obesity."