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Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 9, 2012
Surprise! Food news on Vegging Out!
In the first study, the team utilized syndicated Internet usage data from comScore to examine the number and age of visitors to food company websites and the relative usage of sites that contained advergames. The study found that over one million children visit food company advergame sites every month and that they spend up to one hour per month on some sites. The majority of advergame sites promote candy, high-sugar cereals, and fast food, and many feature products that food companies have pledged they will not market to children. Young people were significantly more engaged in these sites compared with other food company-sponsored websites, according to the study.
The second study examined 152 children and measured how much snack food they consumed after playing advergames that featured unhealthy or healthy food, compared with playing computer games that did not focus on food. Advergames that promoted junk food increased the children's consumption of unhealthy snack foods by 56 percent compared to playing the healthy games, and 16 percent more than playing the control games. In addition, children who played unhealthy advergames consumed one-third fewer fruits and vegetables than children who played the control and healthy games. Children who previously played advergames were affected the most, and both older and younger children were similarly affected. Advergames encouraging healthy eating did increase fruit and vegetable consumption, but the researchers found only one advergame website that promoted primarily healthy foods.
According to the researchers, several companies in the United States have pledged to shift their child-targeted advertising to "better-for-you" foods through the voluntary Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative sponsored by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. However, not one advergame in this analysis met the council's criteria for child-directed advertising.
"While research has shown a decline in television food advertisements targeted to children, companies are introducing new and sophisticated forms of marketing such as advergames that allow children to engage in advertising content for unlimited amounts of time," says author Jennifer Harris, the Rudd Center's director of marketing initiatives.
The researchers assert that this study showing the reach and impact of advergames on children's eating behaviors demonstrates the need for substantial reductions in the use of advergames to promote unhealthy food to children.
Editor's note: All information in this post was contributed. It is unedited here.
Anyone else horrified by this important news?
NEW HAVEN.— Experiencing stressful life events, such as a divorce or job loss, can reduce gray matter in critical regions of the brain that regulate emotion and important physiological functions — even in healthy individuals, Yale researchers report in a study published online the week of Jan. 9 in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
Chronic abuse, trauma, and stress have been linked to changes in brain structure and function in animals and to psychiatric disorders such as addiction, depression, and anxiety in humans. However, the effects of stress on brains of healthy individuals have been unclear. Yale researchers decided to look at the volume of gray matter — the tissue containing nerve cells and their branching projections called dendrites — in a group of community participants.
The team conducted magnetic resonance imaging scans of 103 healthy subjects who had been interviewed about traumatic stress and adverse life events, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a home to natural disaster, job loss or divorce. They found that even the brains of subjects who had only recently experienced a stressful life event showed markedly lower gray matter in portions of the medial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that regulates not only emotions and self-control, but physiological functions such as blood pressure and glucose levels.
"The accumulation of stressful life events may make it more challenging for these individuals to deal with future stress, particularly if the next demanding event requires effortful control, emotion regulation, or integrated social processing to overcome it," said Emily Ansell, assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author of the study.
Sinha said that the study illustrates the need to address causes of stress in life "and find ways to deal with the emotional fallout."
"The brain is dynamic and plastic and things can improve — but only if stress is dealt with in a healthy manner," Sinha said. "If not, the effects of stress can have a negative impact on both our physical and mental health."
Other Yale-affiliated authors of the study are Kenneth Rando, Kerit Tuit, and Joseph Guarnaccia.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health
Editor's note: All information in this post was contributed. It is unedited here. (That means it's a press release, written by those smart folks over at Yale. We did not even touch it up. It's posted here as a public service.)