A study found a strong association between familiarity with fast-food restaurant TV advertising and obesity
TV adverts for hamburger and fried chicken restaurants can leave a lasting impression - on young people's waistlines, research has shown.
A study found a strong association between familiarity with fast-food restaurant TV advertising and obesity in a group of young Americans.
Those who recognised many "de-branded" adverts were more than twice as likely to be obese as those who recognised just a few.
The results were were based on a survey of 3,342 young people aged 15 to 23 from across the US.
Participants were asked questions about their weight, social background, diet and viewing habits, and how often they ate TV snacks or fast-food restaurant meals. They were also shown 20 still images taken from TV ads for leading fast-food restaurants that were broadcast during the year before the survey.
The images were digitally edited to remove anything that might identify the brand. Individuals were asked if they remembered seeing an ad, if they liked it, and if they could name the restaurant. They were also shown 20 similar ads for alcoholic drinks.
High or low scores were awarded according to how good their recognition was. A total of 15.7% of participants were overweight, and 13.6% were clinically obese, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more.
Of those who were obese, 17% recognised many adverts, and had higher scores. In contrast 8.3% of obese youths recognised just a few ads and had lower scores. For each one point score increase, participants were 3% more likely to be obese.
The findings are being presented today at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Boston, US.
Lead researcher Dr Auden McClure, from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, US, said: "We know that children and adolescents are highly exposed to fast-food restaurant advertising, particularly on television. This study links obesity in young people to familiarity with this advertising, suggesting that youth who are aware of and receptive to televised fast-food marketing may be at risk for health consequences."