Youth obesity linked to fast-food advertising

Obesity in young people has been linked to fast-food advertising, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Even when other factors associated with obesity were accounted for, like snacking, fast-food consumption or sugar intake, researchers still found that obese youth were more receptive to advertising that was related to junk food than their non-obese peers.

Navigating marketing messages

According to Auden McClure, assistant professor of Pediatrics and of Community and Family Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine and at the Dartmouth Institute, young people with obesity are more likely to notice, like and recognize the brands of the fast-foods they see on television.

"Given the concerning rates of obesity in US youth and associated health risks, a better understanding of influences leading to obesity in youth is critical in guiding prevention and public health strategies," McClure said in a press release on the study.

The research was based on a national sample of 2,541 participants who were between the ages of 15 and 23. Subjects viewed a random series of advertisement frames (where brand names were removed) of fast-food restaurants. They were then asked if they had previously seen the ad, whether or not they liked it and if they could name the brand associated with the ad. The participants were then given a "receptivity score" based on this information. Youth with higher receptivity scores were more likely to be obese, the study found.

More research needed

Since the study couldn't account for whether the advertising receptivity or obesity came first in this particular group of participants, further research would be helpful, the authors noted.

"The more we know about how marketing influences teens and young adults, the better able we are as parents and pediatricians at helping young people to navigate the influx of marketing messages and make good choices," wrote McClure.

Source: Science Daily

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