Food logos light up kids' 'pleasure' centres

Credits: REUTERS/Mike Segar/Files


This child's brain -- brought to you by McDonald's.

Finally, there's proof of what most parents already know: food ads work really well on kids.

Researchers have found the most popular food companies have branded the brains of young people in such a powerful and genetic way, just seeing a logo trips the pleasure and reward switches in their young heads.

This means, on cue, if they see certain company names, their appetite controls are triggered. Although the same doesn't happen with logos for items not connected to food -- say, BMW versus Rice Krispies.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City and University of Kansas Medical Center study looked at more than 100 brands -- both food and non-food - then used an MRI scanner to pinpoint the areas of the brain that ignited in children aged 10 to 14 when they saw the logos.

Researcher Dr. Amanda Bruce says children are more likely to choose those foods with familiar logos, and a majority of meals marketed to children are high in sugars, fat and sodium.

Bruce told QMI Agency that the brain scans showed reflexes to logos are not much different than when a child is shown images of actual food.

"Similar areas of the brain are also implicated in obesity and various types of addiction, including drug abuse," she said.

Very young children learn their brands early.
"Some research finds that children identify the golden arches for McDonald's before they know the letter M," Bruce added.

Her study will appear in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Her team knows the brain of an obese child reacts differently to images of food than that of a kid with a healthy weight. They are now trying to find out what goes through the mind of each of those children when advertising flashes in front of their eyes.

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