Do your children light up when they see those golden arches?
Well, they’re surely not alone. A new study released this week showed that brain activity in areas connected to rewards and appetite control increased in children when they were shown well-known fast food logos.
Researchers from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center showed children, ages 10-14, 120 popular company logos — 60 food and 60 non-food logos. During this process, researchers used MRI technology to scan the children’s brains and monitor their activity. The study found that fast-food logos triggered an increase in brain activity compared to the non-food logos.
Researcher Dr. Amanda Bruce said that while viewing fast food logos, the children’s increased brain activity was not that much different than when the children saw actual food. She said children’s interest and familiarity with food logos is “concerning,” as the logos are marketing food that is unhealthy.
Dr. Bruce told The Independent that this is especially worrisome as areas in the brain that provide self-control are not fully developed in children:
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...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.
Prior to this study, Dr. Bruce’s team had also found that the brain of obese youth react faster with interest for fast food logos than youth with a healthy weight.
Dr. Bruce added that children’s brains are branded very early in life.
She said, “Some research finds that children identify the golden arches for McDonald's before they know the letter M.”