When it comes to the logos and images associated with unhealthy foods, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. And a lot of knowledge turns out to be even worse.
Children able to identify higher numbers of logos associated with soda, sugary breakfast cereal, and fast-food brands are more likely to have a high body mass index (BMI), according to a pair of studies conducted by Edwin E. and June Woldt Cone Professor of Marketing T. Bettina Cornwell and her coauthor Anna McAlister, a professor of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University.
The researchers’ two studies tested children aged three to five on their knowledge of brands and ability to identify items—shown to them with pictures—that originated from specific fast-food restaurants, breakfast cereals, candy, chips, and carbonated soft drinks. The children’s BMI measures were also taken.
Because overweight children very often grow up into overweight adults, this trend has health impacts that extend far into the future.
"It doesn't take long for children to figure out what they like and don't like, something that can stick with them their entire lives," said Cornwell.
For parents and guardians who wish to develop children’s taste for healthier foods, Cornwell recommends early and frequent exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Familiar foods are comforting, and (children) develop a preference for things that are known. If they don’t have a sampling of red bell pepper, they don’t know if it’s something they like,” Cornwell commented in an article about the research in The Register-Guard, one of dozens of media outlets and news websites discussing the findings.
Find out more about the studies on the UO website and on Futurity.org.