Objective: Adolescents view thousands of food commercials annually, but little is known about how individual differences in neural response to food commercials relate to weight gain. To add to our understanding of individual risk factors for unhealthy weight gain and environmental contributions to the obesity epidemic, we tested the associations between reward region (striatum and orbitofrontal cortex [OFC]) responsivity to food commercials and future change in body mass index (BMI).
Methods: Adolescents (N = 30) underwent a scan session at baseline while watching a television show edited to include 20 food commercials and 20 nonfood commercials. BMI was measured at baseline and 1-year follow-up.
Results: Activation in the striatum, but not OFC, in response to food commercials relative to nonfood commercials and in response to food commercials relative to the television show was positively associated with change in BMI over 1-year follow-up. Baseline BMI did not moderate these effects.
Conclusions: The results suggest that there are individual differences in neural susceptibility to food advertising. These findings highlight a potential mechanism for the impact of food marketing on adolescent obesity.
© 2014 The Obesity Society.