Why Do The Golden Arches Make Kids Want A Happy Meal?

The answer is simple: the brains of children are “imprinted” with fast food logos at a very early age.

Fast food ads work really well on kids. And the more unhealthy the food, the better the ads work. If you’re a parent, you’ve undoubtedly experienced extreme frustration at how those fast food companies seem to be brainwashing your child.

Now comes proof that you are absolutely correct.

Researchers from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center chose 120 popular food and non-food brands, including McDonald’s, Rice Krispies, BMW and FedEx.

Working with children ages 10 to 14, the researchers used MRI technology to scan the brains of these youngsters as they were exposed to 60 food and 60 non-food logos. The results showed the food logos triggered increased activity in areas of their young brains known to be involved in pleasure and in driving and controlling appetite.

This means, on cue, if they see certain company names, their appetite controls are triggered.

OK, so kids’ brains light up when they see the Golden Arches, but not when they see the logos for BMW or Fedex. Nothing surprising there.

But keep reading. From The Independent:

“Research has shown children are more likely to choose those foods with familiar logos,” said Dr Amanda Bruce, who led the study. “That is concerning because the majority of foods marketed to children are unhealthy, calorifically-dense foods high in sugars, fat, and sodium.”

Even more proof of the dangers of junk food emerged last month, with the strong evidence that consumption of too much sugar, fat and salt is directly linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Not a great idea to start that process with toddlers!

Bruce’s study, which will appear in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, suggests fast food firms are tapping into the reward areas of the brain, and that these develop before the regions that provide self-control, leading to unhealthy choices.

From The Independent, Bruce explains why this is especially troubling:

The theory is the increase in risk-taking behaviour in adolescence is attributed to uneven development in brain regions associated with cognitive control and emotional drive…The brains of children are ‘imprinted’ with food logos. Without the necessary inhibitory processes to aid in decision-making, youth are particularly susceptible to making poor choices about what to eat.

And here’s a scary thought from Sun News:

Very young children learn their brands early.

“Some research finds that children identify the golden arches for McDonald’s before they know the letter M,” Bruce added.

So yes, everything you always thought about fast food companies targeting young children was true, and it really works.

Scary stuff. What do you think?


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Photo Credit: Sawyerakrause


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Lim Y.
Lim Y.3 years ago

i dont really mind actually.I eat junk food,yes, but I eat my fruits and vege too. So,im good with both.

Terry V.
Terry V.3 years ago

When will parents learn to say "NO" instead of blaming someone else?

Thomas Brueckner
Thomas Brueckner4 years ago

I knew it all the time.Every Fast Food Chains sells grab,and that's why I've not eat there in the last 6 months,nor I will do in the future.
No more meat I'm vegetarian.

Julie H.
Julie Hoffman4 years ago

Parents need to do their part. My child will never know what a big mac is.

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Brian M.
Past Member 4 years ago

There was a story not so long ago that McDonald's had opened a vegetarian McD's in India. I think the least they could do for all the vegetarians in the U.S. is offer a dozen really good vegetarian choices. It is really hard for my kids to eat when they travel.

Carla van der Meer

While it certainly is nasty of companies to brainwash children, what is the parents excuse? One must be able to say NO to one's children and as an adult, you really should have a better idea of what constitute healthy choices. The amount of people who feed this garbage to their children on a very frequent basis is staggering.

Ingo Schreiner
Ingo Schreiner4 years ago

thanks for the info

Heidi R.
Past Member 4 years ago

We can use this information to our advantage and make some great 'happy' symbol for a vegeburger chain.