Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Health & Fitness
  3. Nutrition

Popular children's movies offer a discordant presentation of food and nutrition

See also

Kids' movies send mixed messages about eating habits and obesity, says a new study, "Pass the popcorn: 'Obesogenic' behaviors and stigma in children's movies," published online December 6, 2013 in the journal Obesity. In a world where animals often take the place of humans, sugar-sweetened beverages, exaggerated portion sizes and unhealthy snacks are common. So is TV watching, computer use and video games.

More Photos

Many of the most popular children's movies from recent years feature both "obesogenic" behaviors and weight-related stigmatizing content, a study by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers finds. But this world is not kind to those who are overweight.

A panda that aspires to be a martial arts master is told he'll never make it because of his "fat butt," "flabby arms" and "ridiculous belly." A chipmunk is called "fatty ratty." A donkey is called a "bloated roadside piñata" and told "you really should think about going on a diet."

The world portrayed in popular children's movies offer a discordant presentation of nutrition and food

This is the world that's portrayed in the most popular children's movies (both live action and animated) released in the U.S. from 2006 to 2010, according to a mixed-methods analysis performed by an ensemble cast of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The examples cited above come from "Kung Fu Panda," "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" and "Shrek the Third."

"These children's movies offer a discordant presentation about food, exercise and weight status, glamorizing unhealthy eating and sedentary behavior yet condemning obesity itself," explains Eliana M. Perrin, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics in the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine and corresponding author of the study, according to the December 9, 2013 news release, "Kids movies send mixed messages about eating habits and obesity."

In the study, Perrin and her co-authors analyzed the top-grossing G- and PG-rated movies from 2006-2010

Four movies per year were included, for a total of 20 movies. Segments from each movie were assessed for the prevalence of key nutrition and physical behaviors corresponding to the American Academy of Pediatrics' obesity prevention recommendations for families, prevalence of weight stigma, assessment of the segment as healthy, unhealthy or neutral, and free-text interpretations.

With regard to eating behaviors, the researchers found that 26 percent of the movie segments with food depicted exaggerated portion size, 51 percent depicted unhealthy snacks and 19 percent depicted sugar-sweetened beverages.

With regard to depiction of behaviors, 40 percent of movies showed characters watching television, 35 percent showed characters using a computer and 20 percent showed characters playing video games

Movie segments rated as "unhealthy" by the researchers outnumbered those rated as "healthy" by 2:1, and most of the movies (70 percent) included weight-related stigmatizing content.

"These popular children's movies had significant 'obesogenic' content, and most contained weight-based stigma," the study concludes. "They present a mixed message to children: promoting unhealthy behaviors while stigmatizing the behaviors' possible effects.

First author of the study is Elizabeth M. Throop (now at Valley City State University in North Dakota). Co-authors from UNC are Asheley Cockrell Skinner, PhD; and Michael J. Steiner, MD, MPH, both from the Department of Pediatrics in the UNC School of Medicine; and Andrew J. Perrin, PhD, associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts & Sciences. Adebowale Odulana, MD, MPH, now at the Medical University of South Carolina, is also a co-author of the study.

Advertisement

Life

  • Dead babies found
    Seven dead babies were found in Utah resident Megan Huntsman's old home
    Video
    Shocking Discovery
  • Kendall Jenner
    Get the Coachella looks: Kendall Jenner’s nose ring, green hair and edgy nails
    Camera
    Coachella Look
  • Dog's Easter basket
    How to fill your dog’s Easter basket with the perfect toys
    Easter Basket
  • Rabbit owners
    Bringing home the bunny: Important information for rabbit owners
    Camera
    7 Photos
  • Haunted island
    The world’s most haunted island may soon be the most haunted luxury resort
    Haunted Resort
  • Sunken ferry
    Search continues for missing passengers after a ferry sinks off the South Korean coast
    Video
    Sunken Ferry

Related Videos:

  • Altering estrogen levels and recent research on food colors.
    <div class="video-info" data-id="518114652" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=518114652&autoStart=true"></div>
  • A new UTSC study suggests that fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers are ineffective in reducing infant exposure to contaminants like persistent organic pollutants.
    <div class="video-info" data-id="517680415" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=517680415&autoStart=true"></div>
  • Food shortages could be critical by mid-century.
    <div class="video-info" data-id="517471019" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=517471019&autoStart=true"></div>

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about Examiner.com and apply today!