For years, perhaps even decades, we’ve blamed our childhood obesity problem on a child’s upbringing, for example the influence that their parent’s eating habits have had on the child. However, after the discovery of the obesity gene it was found that a person’s weight may indeed be the product of a so-called genetic lottery, with those who have the obesity gene being genetically pre-disposed to have less willpower when it comes to eating healthy foods. But what does this mean for a child who generally has their food controlled by the adults around them?
A recent study by HealthDay has actually found that those children with the obesity gene in their makeup were far more likely to respond to television adverts that advertised so-called junk food. Which is a serious problem, as one of the traits of this obesity gene is that it stops adult and children from being able to resist food once they’ve seen it.
The study itself was conducted on 78 children all aged between 9 and 12. Each child was placed in an MRI scanner to monitor their brain while they watched a television show where half of the adverts showed fast food. This would allow researchers to monitor the ‘reward center’ of the brain – the area that makes us feel good.
This brain scanning could then be compared to the genetic makeup of each child where scientists looked for one of the obesity risk alleles to compare the scans with. Here it was found that the child’s reward center would respond 2.5 times stronger to the food-related ads compared to non-food commercials. Scarily, 47% of the population have one obesity risk allele and 16% have two of them – which means a vast majority of the population will react more to these fast food adverts and likely cause food cravings in both adults and children.