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Movies Loaded With Images of Junk Food
Date:2/11/2010

Soft drinks, candy and salty snacks particularly pervasive, study finds

THURSDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The next time you sit in a movie theater with your kid and polish off a tub of popcorn, give thought to a new study that finds popular movies are filled with images of junk food.

"We've had a long discussion about advertising to children, what's appropriate and not appropriate, but movies have fallen under the radar," said study author Lisa A. Sutherland. In fact, she said, no one has studied this topic until now, although there's been plenty of research into the roles of tobacco, alcohol and violence in movies.

Sutherland, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School, said she was inspired to do her research after taking her son to an action-packed flick in 2003. Brand-name products were so prevalent that she thought, "there has to be something to this."

Sutherland and her colleagues received a grant and launched their study, which analyzed the top 20 films at the box office in each year from 1996 to 2005. Researchers watched each film and noted brand-name references to food and beverage products plus retail food establishments, such as fast-food restaurants.

The findings appear in the March issue of Pediatrics.

Of the 200 movies, 69 percent -- 138 -- featured at least one food, beverage or retail establishment; PG-13 and R-rated movies were more likely to include the references, as were comedies, action films and horror films.

Candy products (26 percent) and salty snacks (21 percent) were the most common foods seen in the movies, and sugary soft drinks made up three-quarters of the beverages mentioned. Fast-food restaurants, meanwhile, accounted for two-thirds of the retail establishment mentions.

McDonald's topped the references to food establishments with 13.1 percent of them, while Pepsi and Coca-Cola were nearly equal (at about 35 p
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