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Popeye Encourages Children to Eat Vegetables

Popeye Encourages Children to Eat Vegetables

With his bulging biceps and vegetarian diet, Popeye is credited with urging millions of youngsters to eat spinach since the 1930s. But now the cartoon sailor man's impact on children's eating habits has been recognised by scientific research. Experts found that children who regularly watched Popeye scoffing spinach before his animated bouts with his arch-rival Bluto, doubled their vegetable intake. The youngsters, aged four and five, ate four portions of vegetables a day after watching the cartoon hero compared to two before the study.

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Professor Chutima Sirikulchayanonta, who led the research at Mahidol University in Bangkok, said: “We got the children planting vegetable seeds, taking part in fruit and vegetable tasting parties, cooking vegetable soup, and watching Popeye cartoons.”

Researchers said that the experiment, which also encouraged children to plant their own vegetables, led to the 26 volunteers taking more interest in eating healthily.

Prof Sirikulchayanonta added that Popeye did not influence an increase in the children's fruit consumption, but that this was possibly because they already enjoyed plenty of fruit in their diet.

The findings of the study are published in journal Nutrition & Dietetics.

Research earlier this year found that sales of tinned spinach, like the kind eaten by Popeye, rose by 24 per cent last year to become one of Britain's fastest selling canned vegetables.

Popeye, who was created by Elzie Crisler Segar for the Thimble Theatre comic strip and first appeared on screen in 1933, is credited with helping save the US spinach industry in the 1930s.

His influence in boosting sales among children was recognised by the spinach-growing community in Crystal City, Texas, who erected a statue of the fictional sailor in 1937.

Popeye has not regularly been seen on British television since The Popeye Show – the most recent incarnation of the cartoon – ended its run in 2004. The cartoons are still aired in Asia.

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Some Kids Say Cartoon Endorsed Foods Taste Better

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.”

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