Are Overweight Cartoon Characters Negatively Affecting Children’s Eating Habits?

Homer Simpson may be hilarious, but he has a negative influence on children’s eating habits, according to a new study

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When children are bombarded with overweight cartoon characters, they’re more likely to indulge in unhealthy food, a new study claims.

Beloved cartoon characters like Homer Simpson, McDonald’s Grimace, Peter Griffin, and others are negatively affecting children’s diets, claims a new study

Conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the study found that after watching overweight cartoon characters, children consumed more low-nutrition, high-calorie foods such as cookies and candy.

“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," said Margaret C. Campbell, the lead author of the study, in a press release.

More than 300 children between the ages of 6 and14 were exposed to either normal-weight cartoon characters or overweight characters (defined as ovoid, or egg-shaped). Those exposed to the overweight characters ate unhealthier food. 

The study also found the effects of the overweight characters were curtailed when children considered their previous health knowledge. Children were asked to identify the healthier option in scenarios such as soda versus milk and playing inside versus playing outside before watching cartoons featuring overweight characters. In this scenario, children’s consumption of unhealthy food was lower than it was when they weren’t asked about good health habits.

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