Amanda S. Bruce and colleagues from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center assessed 10 healthy weight and 10 obese children, aged 10-14 years, using both self-reported measures of self-control and functional magnetic resonance imaging, which uses blood flow as a measure of brain activity.
"We were interested in how brain responses to food logos would differ between obese and healthy weight children," Dr Bruce said.
The children were shown 60 food logos and 60 non-food logos, and functional magnetic resonance imaging scans indicated which sections of the brain reacted to the familiar logos being shown.
Obese children showed greater activation in some reward regions of the brain than healthy weight children when shown the food logos. Healthy weight children showed greater brain activation in regions of the brain associated with self-control, when shown food versus non-food logos.
Overall, healthy weight children self-reported more self-control than the obese children. This adds to the body of research showing that in certain situations, healthy weight individuals experience greater activation of control regions of the brain than obese individuals.
"This study provides preliminary evidence that obese children may be more vulnerable to the effects of food advertising. One of the keys to improving health-related decision-making may be found in the ability to improve self-control," Bruce added.
The study will be published in The Journal of Pediatrics.