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Obese teens encouraged by TV

17th October 2006

25072006_obeseteenager1.jpgNew research suggests that healthy eating campaigns are more effective in the fight against teenage obesity than those telling children to slim down.

Ekant Veer, a marketing lecturer at the University of Bath, said that shows like Jamie Oliver’s ‘School Dinners’ were successful with overweight children because they promoted a positive body image and were valuable because they encourage children to think about their weight without making them feel unattractive or worthless.

The research involved over 300 obese or overweight school children aged between 13 and 18. In the study the teenagers were split into two groups, one of which was encouraged to think about body image by drawing a picture of themselves.  Both groups were then shown advertising posters about having a healthy breakfast - one urging children to slim down, the other providing educational information about the benefits of healthy eating.  Three-quarters of the children who had been asked to draw pictures of themselves said they felt encouraged to eat more healthily and do more exercise after seeing the adverts. But of those who had not been asked to draw a picture, only 58% said the adverts had an effect.

Mr Veer said the key message of the findings was that campaigns portraying a negative image of overweight people don’t actually encourage them to slim down. "This research shows that getting young people to think about themselves frequently makes them much more receptive to campaigns giving information about how to eat more healthily and to exercise." he said.

Mr Veer is now involved in a follow-up study to determine whether healthy-eating campaigns have a lasting effect in helping teenagers lose weight.

 

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