Are cartoon characters influencing kids eating habits?

Are cartoon characters influencing kids eating habits?

Children consume more low-nutrition, high-calorie foods such as cookies and candy after observing seemingly overweight cartoon characters, according to a recent study from the University of Colorado Boulder.

The research showed that children tend to perceive ovoid, or egg-shaped, characters as overweight even though the creatures are imaginary. Seeing these ovoid characters influenced children to consume more unhealthy food.

“They have a tendency to eat almost twice as much indulgent food as kids who are exposed to perceived healthier looking cartoon characters or no characters at all,” lead study author Margaret C. Campbell said in a news release.

An exception to this was when the children had the opportunity to review their health knowledge prior to watching the cartoon and completing a cookie taste-test. Those who were asked to select the healthier of two options, such as drinking soda versus milk in a series of six picture and word pairs, consumed fewer cookies.

“This is key information we should continue to explore,” said Campbell. “Kids don’t necessarily draw upon previous knowledge when they’re making decisions. But perhaps if we’re able to help trigger their health knowledge with a quiz just as they’re about to select lunch at school, for instance, they’ll choose the more nutritious foods.”

The results of the study are disappointing to some physicians.

“Childhood obesity is the most common chronic health problem in America,” says Dr. Andrea Kane, Advocate Medical Group pediatrician at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.  We are raising the first generation of kids to live shorter than adults due to obesity and the health complications related to obesity.”

Dr. Kane recommends limiting all sugary drinks and junk food, as well as keeping screen time to less than two hours a day.

“It’s important to teach kids what healthy looks like and to encourage nutrition and exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle,” she says.

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Comments

6 Comments

  1. Shame on Advocate, by way of necessitating a quotation into the article, for printing another statement that can be conveyed either as a lie or simply misleading. Where is the evidence? Equally important, how did she come to this conclusion?

    “We are raising the first generation of kids to live shorter than adults due to obesity and the health complications related to obesity.”

    • I agree Jefferson. This is coming from a healthcare setting, where is the evidence to back up these claims?

      • Lynn Hutley

        Thank you both for your comments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. It (childhood obesity) is a major health care issue both now and for the future.

  2. This seems pretty far-fetched…. I mean, can anyone reading this take this statement seriously?- “They have a tendency to eat almost twice as much indulgent food as kids who are exposed to perceived healthier looking cartoon characters or no characters at all,” lead study author Margaret C. Campbell said in a news release.” WHAT???? What exactly did this study entail?? How was this conclusion reached? Were kids sitting in front of a table filled with food and then made to watch different cartoons? How many kids were involved in the study and how old were they? Your readers have no idea what was involved in this study, and therefore no real conclusions can be drawn from it. This “research” seems completely absurd. Surely the childhood obesity epidemic in America isn’t hinged on fat cartoon characters…. really, Advocate? Jefferson is right- Dr. Kane’s statement has no validity whatsoever. Since when are kids not outliving their adult counterparts? This makes no sense. Miss piggy and her fan base are snorting at this article.

    • Lynn Hutley

      Thank you for your comments. Our goal is to bring health headlines in the media to you with additional information from our team of experts. The study consisted of 300 participants in three age groups averaging 8, 12 and 13 years old. More information about the study can be found via the University of Colorado at Boulder or the Journal of Consumer Psychology. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The long-term effects of this trend could be the basis for Dr. Kane’s statement.

  3. Hey folks, let’s stop looking outside our homes for reasons of childhood obesity. As a former peds nurse, I am telling you that the adage ‘acorn does not fall far from the tree”, is very true indeed. How and what is served at home, including portion size observation and repitition is paramount in looking at childrens obesity. There is also an emotional element in this and kids who are stressed; eat, if they have learned to manage their emotions w food, like those around them, it continues into adulthood. Food Addiction is very real and the only “acceptable” form of addiction…..How about we get them off of TV and out playing and physically moving….Thanks.

About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.