It’s no secret that kids these days are bombarded with smiling images of popular fast food icons, but could these advertising ploys directly contribute to childhood obesity?
A new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that young people who recognize fast-food brands when certain cues are erased — like McDonald’s golden arches and KFC’s logo — are twice as likely to be obese as those who recognized only a few.
Participants in a national sample of 3,342 youths aged 15 to 23 were shown 20 still images culled from television ads for top fast food restaurants. Brands were digitally removed from the images, and individuals were asked if they remembered seeing the ad, if they liked it and if they could name the restaurant brand.
The study’s co-author, James D. Sargent, MD, FAAP, noted that the relationship between fast food marketing and obesity “not simply that it prompts more quick-serve restaurant visits.”
“individuals who are more familiar with these ads may have food consumption patterns that include many types of high-calorie food brands, or they may be especially sensitive to visual cues to eat while watching TV. More research is necessary to determine how fast-food ad familiarity is linked to obesity,” he added.