Food for thought
When a person is exposed to a picture of appealing food, the regions of the brain associated with attention, reward and motivation quickly become active. Salivation and food cravings increase. What Is The Best Female Fat Burner Pills. This is an automatic conditioned response built up over a lifetime of experience with these types of food. Importantly, this reward response seems to be particularly associated with high-calorie foods – in other words, the pineapple doesn’t stand a chance.
The strength of this “food cue reactivity” response differs between people and is an important predictor of food intake and weight gain in both adults and children. It is also influenced by genes. Children with a higher genetic risk for obesity show stronger brain reward responses to food adverts on TV and eat more sweets in response to food adverts. This suggests that some individuals have a vulnerability to advertising that is beyond their control.
To resist the cravings that are triggered by the brain’s response to these adverts, individuals must engage in self control. This involves a brain area called the pre-frontal cortex, and is harder for children because the pre-frontal cortex does not finish maturing until adulthood.
In contrast, the brain areas underlying the reward response develop at a much younger age. This leaves children particularly vulnerable to the marketing of tempting foods.
Doesn’t stand a chance. Shutterstock
One could argue that this is not a problem for the McDonald’s adverts approved by the ASA. However neuroimaging reveals that children’s brains show a similar reward response when they recognise a brand associated with HFSS food. So just seeing logos associated with burgers can result in the same kind of reaction as seeing images of the foods themselves.
Of course, it isn’t only TV adverts that are a problem. Junk food adverts are everywhere, from bus shelters to supermarket promotions, and the brightly coloured packaging is hard to miss.
The UK food industry spends huge sums promoting HFSS foods, and much less on healthier alternatives. Only 1.2% of broadcast advertisers’ budgets is reportedly spent on promoting fresh vegetables.
Ultimately, if the government really does want to protect children from junk food marketing, they must restrict all adverts that promote HFSS brands, not just those that explicitly show the food itself. It’s time we started paying attention to how human eating behaviour really works, rather than how we wish it did.