Saturday 20 January 2018

How Peppa Pig could be making your children fat

Family fun: Peppa pig (centre) with Daddy Pig and little brother George
Family fun: Peppa pig (centre) with Daddy Pig and little brother George

Camilla Turner

Plump cartoon characters are fuelling child obesity crisis by causing youngsters to eat more, study suggests

Plump cartoon characters like Peppa Pig and Homer Simpson could be fuelling the child obesity crisis by causing youngsters to eat more, a study suggests.

Children eat more low-nutrition, high-calorie food after watching fat cartoon characters, a research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found.

They eat twice as much indulgent food after watching overweight cartoon characters as those who watched cartoons with normal body weights, according to the study.

Youngsters who took pasrt in the research perceived egg-shaped characters as overweight, despite the creatures being imaginary.

During the study, 300 participants in three age groups of eight, 12 and 13-years-old, were studied encountering cartoons in books graphic novels, TV shows, video games and films.

Lead author Professor Margaret Campbell, from the University of Colorado in the US, said: "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 creatures - creatures for which there isn't a real baseline."

Prof Campbell added: "This is key information we should continue to explore. 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."

While the study is the first of its kind, it's not the first time the waistlines of cartoon characters have been called to judgement.

Several years ago Kellogg's slimmed down Tony the Tiger to be slimmer and more athletic.

Prof Campbell said that this was responsible behaviour and added: "What I would like to see is companies being a lot more responsible with their own marketing choices.

"I think it is important for parents to know they should think about the way they might be associating food with fun for kids - in the form of exposure to cartoon characters, for instance - as opposed to associating food with nutrition and the family structure."

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