Fat cartoon characters make children eat more - New research

The study involved 300 children, split into three age groups of around 8, 12, and 13 years old.

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A new research has  suggested that overweight cartoon characters encourage children to eat more.

According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers from the Colorado State University said overweight cartoon characters such as Shrek and Homer Simpson can "activate the overweight stereotype" in children, causing them to eat more than they should.

In the words of lead study author, Margaret C. Campell, children 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".

It also found that the tendency to munch on junk food was curtailed if the children had to draw on their health knowledge before watching the cartoons.

Some children were given 6 pairs of pictures and words and asked to pick the healthiest option. They then watched a cartoon featuring a character considered to be fat, before being offered cookies.

The results showed that the children who had participated in the health test ate fewer cookies than the children who had simply just watched the cartoon.

According to Campbell, "because research like this is new; looking at kids and stereotyping particularly of cartoon characters - we weren't sure whether kids would be aware of bodyweight norms. But surprisingly, they apply typically human standards to cartoon characters - creatures for which there isn't a real baseline."

Campbell added that it was important to keep exploring, saying "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."

Also, she expressed hope that her research will encourage companies to be "more responsible with their own marketing choices" citing Frosties mascot, 'Tony the Tiger', which was redesigned several years ago to look slimmer and more athletic.

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