J. D. Heyes
Oct 4, 2012
Can fast food act as a sort of mind-control factor on children? The answer is yes, according to a new study, and in fact, researchers say, the fast food companies have succeeded in essentially brainwashing an entire generation.
According to research teams at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center suggests that a child’s brain could be imprinted with fast-food restaurants’ logos and brands.
The study utilized MRI technology to monitor the brain activity of children between the ages of 10 and 14. Kids were shown a series of 120 widely popular, very recognizable logos – some of which were fast food related and some which were not.
The study, called the “Neuroeconomics of Controversial Food Technologies,” found that so-called reward processing centers and regions of the brain devoted to driving and/or controlling appetite jumped with activity when the kids saw the fast food logos, but not when they saw logos of other brands.
But isn’t that the goal of marketing – especially marketing of food? What’s the big deal?
Fast food chains the worst
“Research has shown children are more likely to choose those foods with familiar logos,” Dr. Amanda Bruce, who led the study, told The Independent newspaper. “That is concerning because the majority of foods marketed to children are unhealthy, calorifically-dense foods high in sugars, fat and sodium.”
“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,” she said.
The study, which comes following comments by British politician Chris Brewis, who likened fast food to child abuse, is noteworthy for a number of reasons, not the least of which is this: America is in the throes of an obesity epidemic, led in large part by bad dietary decisions.
Fast food restaurants represent the worst of those.
“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,” Bruce told the paper.
This isn’t new – Fast food chains have been competing for the minds of our children for some time now
Marketing of fast food to children has been an issue of concern to government and advocacy groups for years.
The FTC found that in 2006, food companies were spending some $1.6 billion a year to market products specifically to kids, mostly teenagers. Makers of carbonated drinks spent the most; they were followed by fast food chains and breakfast cereal producers. Television was the dominant marketing vehicle.
The report also detailed the progress of a coalition of 14 major food companies – including Kellogg’s and Coca-Cola – was formed in 2006 to resist government regulation of their marketing.
Some things never change
The coalition pledged, in essence, to reduce their efforts to target kids specifically, an approach that appeared to be hailed by the FTC.
“The committee’s primary recommendation is all food and beverage companies adopt and adhere to” nutritional standards for products marketed to children, Lydia Parnes, director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said during a news conference. She went on to add that joining the coalition would be a good “first start” for other companies.
Critics of that self-regulatory approach questioned what the coalition considered “better” food, as well as a lack of industry-wide definitions on what advertising to children entailed.
“In the Better Business Bureau program, the companies themselves determine what is better food, the companies themselves determine what is children’s advertising. The companies determine all these things; there’s not even a real uniformity in what these decisions are,” Robert Kesten, the executive director of the Center for Screen-Time Awareness, a Washington-based group that seeks to limit media influence, told The New York Times.
The joint study indicates that food companies are continuing to aim much of their marketing efforts at kids.
This article was posted: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 2:36 am