Are TV ads fueling childhood obesity? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Are TV ads fueling childhood obesity?

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Claire Steichen's son spends plenty of time outside. She doesn't want him sitting in front of the television. In fact, she got rid of theirs.

"We didn't want them watching as much TV and because we didn't love the advertising," Steichen said.

Some experts say food marketing is fueling the childhood obesity epidemic. Now, a new study shows food advertising could affect the brains of obese children differently.

Researchers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City showed food logos to a group of obese children and healthy weight children, and then they used scans to see how areas of the brain responded.

"So all the kids showed activity in reward regions, but what the obese kids didn't show was brain activation in regions of self-control when they were looking at the food logos," said Dr. Amanda Bruce, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City.

Bruce found the healthy weight children had more activity in areas of the brain that help stop behaviors.

It's estimated that companies spend more than $10 billion a year to market food and beverages to kids. Researchers say this study raises serious questions.

"We know the vast majority of food marketing is for unhealthy products that are high in sugar, sodium and fat," Bruce said. "Is that doing kids a favor or is it doing them harm?"

Dr. Bruce says parents should encourage good eating habits and try to limit exposure to food ads. That's something this mom is already doing.

"We allow them to watch some of the younger videos, the Dora. Basically we just watch it with them," Steichen said.

Choices she hopes will keep her children on healthy track.

More than one-third of children and teens are overweight or obese in the U.S.

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