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"Given the concerning rates of obesity in U.S. youth and associated health risks, a better understanding of influences leading to obesity in youth is critical in guiding prevention and public health strategies," study author Dr. Auden McClure, of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., said in a center news release.
The study included 2,541 participants, aged 15 to 23, from across the United States who viewed a random set of frames from fast food ads with brand names removed.
Participants were then asked if they had seen the ad, if they liked it, and if they could name the brand. Based on their responses, the participants received a score that reflected their receptiveness to the food ads. Those with higher scores were more likely to be obese than those with lower scores, according to the study, published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"The more we know about how marketing influences teens and young adults, the better able we are as parents and pediatricians at helping young people to navigate the influx of marketing messages and make good choices," said McClure, an assistant professor of pediatrics and of community and family medicine.
She noted that the study could not determine which comes first -- being receptive to TV fast food ads or obesity -- and said further research is needed to better understand the link between food advertising and obesity risk.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Norris Cotton Cancer Center, news release, Oct. 23, 2013