Updated 30 October 2013

Obese teens eat up fast-food hype – study

Researchers say advertising messages for fast food are more likely to reach overweight teenagers watching TV than their slimmer peers.

Obese teens and young adults may be more receptive to TV fast food advertisements than those who aren't obese, a new study says.

"Given the concerning rates of obesity in US youth and associated health risks, a better understanding of influences leading to obesity in the youth is critical in guiding prevention and public health strategies," said study author Dr Auden McClure, of the Norris Cotton Cancer Centre at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Centre in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

What did the study say?

The study included 2 541 participants, aged 15 to 23, from across the United States who viewed a random set of frames from fast food ads with brand names removed.

Participants were then asked if they had seen the ad, if they liked it and if they could name the brand.

Based on their responses, the participants received a score that reflected their receptiveness to the food ads. Those with higher scores were more likely to be obese than those with lower scores, according to the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

McClure, an assistant professor of paediatrics and of community and family medicine said: "The more we know about how marketing influences teens and young adults, the better able we are as parents and paediatrics at helping young people to navigate the influx of marketing messages and make good choices."
She noted that the study could not determine which comes first -- being receptive to TV fast food ads or obesity -- and said further research is needed to better understand the link between food advertising and obesity risk.

More information

The American Academy of Paediatrics outlines the effects of obesity on teen health.

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