Comics promoting healthier eating in kids?
Japanese comic art, also known as manga, is popular with teens because these comics tend to speak directly to this age group. Wondering how much manga could affect healthy eating habits and ultimately obesity, particularly minority youth, a recent study found the comics could be used to encourage students to make healthier snack choices.
The study, to be published in the March/April 2014 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, revealed that when students were exposed to Manga comics that promoted eating fruit, participants chose healthy snacks far more often.
According to the study, snacking makes up 27 percent of children’s daily caloric intake and childhood obesity has been linked to children not taking in adequate amounts of fruits and veggies. Approximately, 30 percent to 45 percent of U.S. children between 6 and 18 don’t meet recommended fruit consumption levels.
A group of 57 students in two after-school programs in Brooklyn, New York, near the age of 11, participated in the study. Most participants were either Black or Hispanic, and 54 percent were female. Participants read either “Fight for Your Right to Fruit,” a Manga comic, or a non-health-related newsletter. Once done, they were given the choice between a healthy snack such as apples, grapes, oranges and strawberries or a high-calorie snack such as cookies, cheese-filled crackers, nacho chips and potato chips.
More than half of the participants (61 percent) who read the Manga comic chose a healthy snack after reading the comic vs. 35 percent from the non-Manga group.
Researchers chose the manga genre because it not only combines visual images with text, but the stories are persuasive because readers are transported or immersed in the story and the images influence behavior.
“Manga comics could be used to promote healthier behaviors and beliefs related to fruit consumption in at-risk youth,” said lead study author May May Leung in a statement.
“The graphics and minimal text make it a promising format to engage younger populations,” added Leung, a registered dietitian and professor at City University of New York School of Public Health.
Researchers also noted that because this was a pilot study, larger sample sizes and additional studies examining the effects of more traditional media are necessary.
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