The study, performed by researchers at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC), the Geisel School of Medicine and Dartmouth Institute, took a national sample of 2,541 young people between the ages of 15 and 23.
These volunteers were shown 20 different fast food advertisements with brand names removed, and were asked whether they could name the brand, whether they had seen the ad, and whether they liked it.
The researchers note that this study is cross-sectional, and does not determine whether the youths were obese before they started paying more attention to the ads, or whether viewing the ads contributed to the obesity. However, the connection is relevant either way.
Study leader Dr. Auden McClure summarizes,
“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.Parents definitely play a crucial role in helping their children make healthy choices. However, even with all the information in the world as to what is healthy and what is not, it is certainly not surprising that adolescents swarmed with constant images of fast food burgers and fries may crave them, even if they know very well how unhealthy they are.
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.”
While avoiding every piece of advertising of this nature is next to impossible, one way to greatly reduce exposure to it is quite simple: just turn off the TV.