US study links familiarity with television fast-food ads with obesity

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 1st May 2012

Greater familiarity with fast-food restaurant advertising on television is associated with obesity in young people, according to new research by the United States’ Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS).

The researchers surveyed a sample of 3,342 youths, aged 15 to 23 years old in the United States. Participants were asked about their height, weight, age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, exercise, consumption of soda or sweet drinks, frequency of eating at quick-service restaurants, how many hours they watched television each day, and whether they snacked while watching television.

The participants were shown 20 still images selected from television advertisements for top quick-service restaurants that aired in the year before the survey was undertaken. The images were digitally edited to remove the brands.

Results showed that the percentage of youths who were obese was significantly higher among those who recognized more advertisements (17 per cent) than those who recognized few advertisements (8.3 per cent).

The study’s lead author, Professor Auden McClure from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center said, “We know that children and adolescents are highly exposed to fast-food restaurant advertising, particularly on television.

“The relation between fast-food marketing and obesity is not simply that it prompts more quick-serve restaurant visits. Instead, individuals who are more familiar with these advertisements 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.”

The Pediatric Academic Societies comprises four individual pediatric organizations – the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, the Academic Pediatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.