Teenagers love TV and fast food chains know this so, perhaps it’s no surprise that a new study suggests that this type of advertising really works . a. The 2013 multi-author study which appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that teens with a high ability to remember fast food advertising were not only more likely to be obese but, according to the authors, are more likely to adopt behaviors such as consumption of calorie-dense foods in the future perpetuating a vicious cycle of excess!

Between the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011 about 6,500 eligible U.S. households were contacted via a random-digit-dial telephone method. About 2,500 of these calls resulted in a young person age 15 to 23 years completing a web-based survey which measured the participants’ ability to recall a random set of 20 images associated with fast food restaurant TV advertising (brand names removed). They were then questioned on whether they could recall seeing the advertisement, whether they liked it and if they could correctly identify the brand. This “cued-recall assessment of youth TV fast-food advertising receptivity” or TV-FFAR for short produced a score which was then correlated with the teen’s BMI.  Amazingly, for every point increase in TV-FFAR, equivalent to answering yes to the above questions and correctly guessing the brand for two fast food restaurants, the odds of obesity were increased by a whopping 19%!

This uncanny ability to remember TV-based fast food ads could be a sign you’re watching too much TV which gets a bad rap anyway when it comes to your health. Too much “tube” time is associated with higher blood pressure, increased caloric intake resulting in obesity (especially in kids) and a reduction in the time we spend outside in the great fresh air. We shouldn’t forget that a simple walk outside surrounded by nature in all its colorful glory can boost cognitive recall by as much as 20%.

Published November 1, 2013