Scientists have discovered that kids love so much of junk food because the logos of fast-food companies have been “branded” on their young brains.
Researchers from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Centre found that MRI scans of children’s appetite and pleasure centres revealed they light up when they are shown advertising images of their favourite fast foods.
However, when the logos were well-known brands but had nothing to do with food the same areas of the brain failed to respond, The Independent reported.
“Research has shown children are more likely to choose those foods with familiar logos,” said Dr Amanda Bruce, who led the study.
“That is concerning because the majority of foods marketed to children are unhealthy, calorifically-dense foods high in sugars, fat, and sodium,” Amanda Bruce added.
The study selected 120 popular food and non-food brands.
Researchers used a type of MRI scanner – functional magnetic resonance imaging – which homes in on changes in blood flow, when areas of the brain become more active, blood flow increases.
Scans were carried out on children aged 10 to 14 as they were exposed to 60 food and 60 non-food logos.
The results showed the food logos triggered increased activity in areas of the brain known to be involved in reward processing and in driving and controlling appetite.
“The theory is the increase in risk-taking behaviour in adolescence is attributed to uneven development in brain regions associated with cognitive control and emotional drive,” Amanda Bruce was quoted as saying by the paper.
“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,” Amanda Bruce said.