Anyone who's ever driven past the golden arches with a 5-year-old in the car knows that food advertising creates brand loyalty among even the youngest eaters. Most fast-food chains have child-oriented ads and meals. If parents regularly succumb to the ensuing pleas for french fries and chicken strips, it can affect the child's dietary preferences for years to come.
As I wrote Wednesday, taste preferences are an important contributor to adulthood obesity. Once the link between nuggets and nirvana solidifies in the brain, it can be hard to sever.
In an earlier conversation about food marketing, a New York blogger and activist named Migdalia Rivera told me that she was inspired to join a campaign to pressure McDonald's to stop promoting Ronald McDonald when her son was diagnosed with hypertension and high cholesterol at age 15.
"One of the difficulties I had was that near his school there were two McDonald's," she told me. "That was a habit he had to learn to break."
A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine offers worrisome evidence that child-centric food marketing affects some kids more than others. Contrary to a popular misconception, the researchers found that most of the 6,716 fast-food restaurants in their sample were located in majority-white neighborhoods. However, it was the restaurants that were located in majority-black neighborhoods that were more likely to market to children.