Does Homer make our children fat?
Could overweight cartoon characters encourage children to eat more?
It might seem an extreme idea but with one in four Irish children overweight or obese, any possible contributory influence is worth examining.
In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers said that overweight cartoon characters such as Shrek and Homer Simpson can "activate the overweight stereotype" in children, causing them to eat more than they should.
Lead author of the study, Margaret C Campell, said 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".
Larger characters like Shrek have been accused of causing children to gain weight.
The study involved 300 children, split into three age groups of around eight, 12, and 13 years old.
Some children were given six 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 biscuits than the children who had simply just watched the cartoon.
Campbell said: "This is key information we should continue to explore."
Health & Living