The Health of the Future

We’ve all seen it.  Grocery store aisles, plastered with colorful boxes.  Maybe you push your cart down the cereal aisle and see a little kid throwing a temper tantrum.  They want the cereal with Dora the Explorer on it.  or Transformers.  Or Sesame Street.  Or Backyardigans.  These kids see the things they enjoy from television, books, and movies all over food packages.

A recent study showed that this is a very real problem.

Much like the Joe Camel effect with cigarettes a few years back, popular cartoon characters are helping children make the wrong decisions.

This isn’t just a matter of childhood obesity and health now.  It’s a matter of lasting health over the next several decades.  The children of today are the businessmen, politicians, doctors, and leaders of tomorrow.  We want our children to grow up healthy and strong, so that someday they are healthy, strong adults, correct?  That means that the manipulation of cartoon characters as food marketing devices is something we, as consumers, parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens ought to be wary of.

Not all of the foods that these cartoon characters represent are bad.  However, most of them aren’t healthy by any means, either.  Awareness of ingredients, processing methods, and overall nutritional content is the best way to judge whether or not Dora of Big Bird are trying to sell you healthy cereal or a sugary nightmare.  Even in regards to healthier food that had character branding, results weren’t always a good as with processed foods.  “We think what might be going on with that is familiarity,” said Christina Roberto, a doctoral student working at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. “Which means that kids are simply really used to seeing characters on foods that are processed. And those foods are also more palatable, so the effects might be accentuated.”

Researchers even went so far as to say that the childhood obesity spike runs parallel with the amount of money put into food marketing, including that which includes popular cartoon characters.

So, if you take anything away from this, I hope you understand that the food choices we make throughout out entire lives, even in childhood, can influence our health in the long run.  These marketing ploys that have kids begging for treats in the store, could contribute to poor health many years down the road.

To see more about this study, click here.