Do foods sold with cartoon characters on the package taste better? In a Yale study, children preferred cartoon-endorsed foods to identical products in different packages.
Forty New Haven, Conn., four- to six-year olds participated in the study. They tried two samples of three different snack foods—graham crackers, fruit snacks, and carrots. Unbeknownst to the children, products within each group were identical foods in different packaging.
When asked which of each sample tasted better, more than half of the children chose the snacks in cartoon-endorsed packaging. This number jumped to about 85 percent when asked which snacks they preferred.
Christina Roberto, a post-graduate student at Yale University and lead author of the study, says this is no accident. Companies use cartoons to push kids to choose their products. Seems innocent enough, right? Wrong. One of the major concerns is when companies use characters to promote junk food rather than health food, which can lead to weight problems and poorer nutrition.
“The food industry spends $1.6 billion on youth-targeted marketing and, of that, 13 percent is dedicated to character licensing and cross-promoting,” Roberto said. “For the most part, these foods are of poor nutritional quality.”
The UK Government has made available a new, free cookbook for all 11-year olds today, to help them learn healthy versions of old favourites – from spaghetti bolognaise; risotto; lamb hot pot; lamb rogan josh; roast chicken legs; chow mein; and apple crumble.
The 'Real Meals – Simple Cooking Made Easy' cookbook containing 32 classic recipes and sauces and endorsed by top chef Phil Vickery, was chosen after the public was asked to nominate the basic dishes every child should learn how to cook.
The cookbook is available online at
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which was funded by The Dannon Company, Inc., involved 638 healthy children aged three to six, all of whom attended school five days a week. Parents were asked to give their child a strawberry yogurt-like drink every day. Some of the drinks contained the probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei (L. casei) and the others did not. Parents were also asked to record how many yogurt drinks their child consumed and to keep notes on their child's health.
At the end of the study, there was a 19 percent decrease in the number of common infections—e.g., ear infections, flu, diarrhea, sinusitis–among children who had consumed the yogurt drink with the probiotics than those who had the drink without the beneficial bacteria. When the researchers broke out the individual types of illness, they found that children who had the probiotic beverage had 24 percent fewer gastrointestinal infections (e.g., diarrhea, nausea, vomiting), and 18 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections (e.g., ear, sinusitis, strep).
The reduction in infections did not, however, result in fewer days lost from school. Merenstein commented that “It is my hope that safe and tolerable ways to reduce illnesses could eventually result in fewer missed school days which means fewer work days missed by parents.”
The finding that the probiotic yogurt drink reduced infections in children, however, is significant. This joins results from other studies demonstrating benefits of probiotics in children, including one published in Pediatrics in which they reduced cold and flu symptoms, another in which they eased diarrhea, and one showing they helped prevent eczema in infants. Generally, probiotics have also been shown to benefit people who have celiac disease, irritable bowel, colitis, and possibly autism.
Georgetown University Medical Center