Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
In this day and age, branding has become the solution for many businesses. With social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, people can even become their own brands. However, there is a dark side to all this branding. Researchers from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center recently discovered that fast food logos may be “imprinted” on the brains of young children, causing them to choose unhealthy food due to their knowledge and association with the brand.
According to the Huffington Post, with functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, the scientists were able to measure the brain activity of children who ranged from 10 to 14 years of age. The kids were given a variety of logos to look at, many of which were recognizable by the participants. Some of the logos were associated with fast food chains like McDonalds and Rice Crispies, while other logos were not, such as BMW and FedEx. The researchers discovered that, when the kids saw the popular logos, the parts of their brain focused on appetite control and drive increased in activity. However, this sudden burst in brain activity was not seen with the other logos.
“Research has shown children are more likely to choose those foods with familiar logos,” study leader Dr. Amanda Bruce, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, mentioned in an article by The Independent. “That is concerning because the majority of foods marketed to children are unhealthy, calorifically-dense foods high in sugars, fat, and sodium.”
There also seems to be a connection between the food with recognizable logos and food that is overly sugary, fatty and salty. In a Medical Daily report, the researchers noted that children had a tendency to choose food that they were familiar with. When asked to choose between a hamburger from McDonald´s and a box of food that didn´t have a label, many of the children went with the McDonald´s burger.
The scientists believe that the results of the study demonstrate that children can be susceptible to marketing and advertising.
“The theory is the increase in risk-taking behavior in adolescence is attributed to uneven development in brain regions associated with cognitive control and emotional drive,” continued Bruce in The Independent article. “The brains of children are ‘imprinted’ with food logos. Without the necessary inhibitory processes to aid in decision-making, youth are particularly susceptible to making poor choices about what to eat.”
The findings from the study help explain the rising rates of obesity in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of obesity has tripled from 20 years ago. It is now found in approximately 17 percent of all adolescents and children in the U.S. Childhood obesity can be particularly harmful as it can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breathing problems, joint problems, among other issues. Furthermore, the health risks in obese children continue with them, as they have a higher risk of becoming obese adults. The CDC suggests a variety of reasons for the increase in obesity among children, including the advertising of unhealthy foods as well as the prevalence of sugary drinks and fatty foods on school campuses.