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Cartoon Characters Prod Kids to Nag for Unhealthy Foods
Date:8/17/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- If you're a parent, you've no doubt heard plaintive wails from your child as you traverse the treat-filled aisles of the grocery store.

And, you may have wondered, what makes even preschoolers yearn so desperately for the character-shaped marshmallow cereal? Or the prepackaged frozen meal in the brightly colored box?

New research suggests one culprit: those cutesy cartoon characters used to sell foods in TV ads.

"The purpose of this study was to explore the mechanism behind an interesting problem we face in the U.S. Since 3- to 5-year-old children aren't shopping, how do low-nutritional food and beverages get into the house? It's the 'nag factor.' It's how 3- to 5-year-olds get their parents to get them foods they might not otherwise want to purchase," explained the study's co-author, Dina Borzekowski, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Results of the study are published in the August issue of the Journal of Children and Media.

A key reason for concern about young kids nagging their parents to get low-nutrition/high-calorie foods is that more and more of America's youngsters are overweight or obese. And, the highly processed, high-sugar foods and drinks that kids want are part of the reason there's an obesity epidemic.

To find out how tots are so good at getting these products into the house, the researchers interviewed 64 mothers of children between 3 and 5 years old. The mothers' average age was 38, and 56 percent of the women had a graduate degree. Most (88 percent) of the women were married, and 68 percent were employed. Household income was more than $60,000 a year for 93 percent of the mothers.

The average home in the study had two televisions, and three children in the study had a TV in their bedroom. According to the moms, kids spent abo
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