With this little trick, teenagers eat less junk food!

With this little trick, teenagers eat less junk food!

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Young people can change their health awareness of junk food

In the fight against obesity, researchers on health awareness have been trying for decades to find a way to convince teenagers not to consume junk food and to eat a healthy diet - but so far without success. One of the biggest obstacles is the enormous presence in food advertising that young people are exposed to every day. These advertising measures are intended to create strong positive associations with junk food in the minds of young people in order to promote consumption. Research has shown that it works.

A new study by the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago has now found that a small change in consciousness can offer young people lasting protection against the harmful effects of food advertising.

Changing perception of advertisements

The study is about changing the way teenagers view food advertising campaigns. Young people, and especially boys, should be trained to consume healthier daily diets over a longer period of time. This method works in part by responding to teenagers' natural desire to rebellion against authorities.

Food advertising is deliberately designed to create positive emotional associations with junk food and to associate it with feelings of happiness and fun. "One of the most exciting things is that we made children show an immediate gut reaction to junk food and junk food advertising, and a more positive gut response to healthy foods," the researchers explain.

The study

In the study, the teenagers first read advertisements for junk food and then carried out an action called "Make It True" to enhance the display of food advertisements. Students received images of food advertising on iPads with instructions to redesign these ads to convert the ads from false to true. This influenced the perception of the advertisements. The researchers found that the impact on advertising perception continued for the rest of the school year. The effects were particularly evident in boys, who reduced their daily purchases of unhealthy drinks and snacks in the school canteen by 31 percent.

This relatively simple change in perspective could be an early sign of a change in health awareness.

Rebelling teenagers are changing their eating habits

The appeal to teenagers to rebel could ultimately improve general health awareness and thus compete with junk food companies. This small, low-cost promotion appears to offer lasting protection against the tempting power of junk food advertising and to change eating habits for the better.

Wrong approaches in the past

"Most actions in the past believed that it was an effective way to warn teenagers about the negative long-term health consequences of poor diet to motivate them to change their behavior," the researchers say. This is clearly a problematic assumption and could be the main reason why nobody has been able to persuade teenagers to change their eating habits.

Study shows new approaches to promoting health awareness

The study shows that it is possible to change behavior during adolescence with a small measure. Adolescence is a phase of development in which even the most protracted approaches to health promotion have had practically no effect. This is due to many social challenges, from education to risky behaviors, the roots of which are rooted in the teenage years. This study paves the way for new approaches to promote global health awareness.


Food advertising is deliberately designed to create positive emotional associations with junk food in order to trigger feelings of happiness and fun. However, the study has shown that it is possible to show teenagers the manipulation of the food industry in order to trigger their natural aversion to adult control behavior. The more young people are made aware of this, the greater the change in health awareness of an entire generation. (fm)

Author and source information

Video: Why we cant stop eating unhealthy foods (May 2022).