Tame Your Tummy: How Skipping Food Ads Can Make Dieting a Breeze

Expanding waistlines increase the risk of various illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Surprisingly, watching food commercials can contribute to overeating and therefore, weight gain. Research suggests that avoiding food commercials may be a crucial step in reducing the lure of overeating.

A study by the Oregon Research Institute, in collaboration with prestigious institutions like Yale, Duke and the University of Michigan, has shown that the neural responses in our brains activated by food commercials can be a significant indicator of future weight gain. This study demonstrates that food commercials can “get under the skin” of adolescents (and adults), by stimulating reward centers in our brains. Those who experience a high level of this brain activity are at greater risk of becoming overweight and obese.

The Research

The research team used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to image the brains of 30 teenagers aged 14-17 years. They found out that food commercials produced more significant brain cell responses in some teens than in others. The teenagers who exhibited the most significant responses gained the most weight during the one-year follow-up of the study. According to the researchers, the predictive value of these brain responses is more significant than factors like having obese parents.

Researcher Sonja Yokum elaborates, “This research tells us how food commercials may be negatively impacting teens between the ages of 14 and 17 at-risk for obesity,” adding that its importance should be considered in the ongoing debate about whether to restrict food advertising for unhealthy foods to young teens.

The Effect on Adults

While the study focused on teenagers, it doesn’t mean that adults are immune to the effects of food commercials. These advertisements are designed to be alluring, tempting us with images of juicy burgers, crispy fries, or creamy chocolate. The indulgent nature of these commercials stimulates the reward centers in our brains, making it harder to resist the urge to consume junk food and snacks. However, by cutting back on viewing these advertisements, adults may find it easier to resist over-consuming unhealthy food items.

Actionable Tips to Reduce Exposure to Food Commercials

  1. Limit TV time: By reducing the amount of time we spend watching television, we can indirectly reduce our exposure to food commercials. Instead, engage in alternative activities like reading, playing games, or going for a walk.

  2. Watch commercial-free programming: Opt for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu that offer commercial-free entertainment. By removing commercials, we eliminate the chances of being lured by food advertising.

  3. Mute or pause during commercials: Make it a habit to mute or pause the television during commercial breaks. Use the break time to continue a conversation, stretch your legs or grab a glass of water.

  4. Protect children and teens: As the research suggests, teenagers are especially vulnerable to the effects of food commercials. Ensure to monitor their television time and encourage them to engage in healthier activities such as outdoor play, sports, or hobbies.

  5. Build awareness: Talk to your family and friends about the impact of food commercials on our eating habits. By spreading awareness, we can support each other in making healthier choices.

  6. Choose healthier options: If you do watch food commercials, make a conscious effort to select healthier options. When fast food commercials tempt your cravings, think of the healthier alternatives like a salad or a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a double cheeseburger.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, food commercials have a powerful effect on our eating habits. By increasing our exposure to these advertisements, we risk succumbing to the temptations of overeating and consuming unhealthy foods. Reducing our exposure to food commercials can help us make better choices, improve our eating habits, and ultimately, safeguard our health.