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Obese Youth More Receptive To Fast-Food Ads

LEBANON, N.H.—Obese youth are more receptive to fast-food advertisements than non-obese youth, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The findings, however, couldn’t determine which comes first—advertising receptivity or obesity.

Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) researchers surveyed 2,541 participants between 15 and 23 years old to determine how receptive youth are to fast-food ads.

Respondents viewed a random subset of 20 ad frames (with brand names removed) selected from national television fast-food restaurant advertisements and were then asked if they had seen the advertisement; if they liked it; and if they could name the brand. A television fast-food advertising receptivity score (a measure of exposure and response) was assigned.

Results determined youth with higher receptivity scores were more likely to be considered obese than those with lower scores. Further, young people with obesity are significantly more likely to notice, like and name the brand in fast-food ads they see on TV than normal-weight peers. The link between youth obesity and receptiveness to television fast-food advertising held even when other factors—snacking while watching television, sugary drink intake, frequency of visits to fast-food restaurants—were considered.

Regardless, efforts are being made nationally to urge the food and beverage industry to advertise responsibly to children in hopes of reducing the obesity epidemic, now affecting 5% of American children.

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