If you have kids, you probably restrict their television choices to keep them from watching inappropriate shows, but a new study says you should really be worried about the commercials. A report published in The Journal of Pediatrics claims that televised food ads alter children's prefrontal cortexes, making them more likely to choose unhealthy foods later.
This should come as no surprise—it's really just a precise way of explaining that advertisements work—but the details are certainly creepy. Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of Missouri in Kansas City assembled a pool of 23 kids, aged 8-14 years. Lead study author Amanda S. Bruce, Ph.D. used MRI machines to monitor the children's brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, where "reward valuation" is determined. Bruce found that while kids tended to favor tasty food over healthy food in general, advertisements amplified this preference signficantly.
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"Food commercials may prompt children to consider their liking and wanting of specific food items, irrespective of the lack of any health benefits. The emphasis on taste may make it even more difficult for relevant caregivers to encourage healthy food choices," the report says.