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Kids' Movies Deliver Mixed Messages on Eating, Obesity

Films condemn obesity, but 'glamorize' inactivity, study finds

THURSDAY, Dec. 12, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Popular children's movies, from "Kung Fu Panda" to "Shrek the Third," contain mixed messages about eating habits and obesity, a new study says.

Many of these animated and live-action movies are guilty of "glamorizing" unhealthy eating and inactivity, while at the same time condemning obesity, according to study corresponding author Dr. Eliana Perrin, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

She and her colleagues analyzed 20 top-grossing G- and PG-rated movies from 2006 to 2010. Clips from each movie were examined for their depictions of eating, physical activity and obesity.

The findings show that many popular children's movies "present a mixed message to children: promoting unhealthy behaviors while stigmatizing the behaviors' possible effects," the researchers said.

Among the movie segments that included eating, 26 percent featured exaggerated portion sizes, 51 percent included unhealthy snacks and 19 percent included sugar-sweetened beverages, according to the study published online Dec. 6 in the journal Obesity.

In terms of activity, 40 percent of the movies showed characters watching television, 35 percent featured characters using computers, and 20 percent showed characters playing video games.

Unhealthy movie segments outnumbered healthy ones by two to one, according to the researchers. They also found that nearly three-quarters of the films included negative weight-related messages.

For instance, a panda who wants to be a martial arts master is told he can't because of his "fat butt," "flabby arms" and "ridiculous belly." And a donkey is referred to as a "bloated roadside pinata."

More information

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers advice on healthy eating for children.




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SOURCE: University of North Carolina, news release, Dec. 9, 2013

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