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The study reveals that food and beverage products aimed at children, which come in colorful packaging adorned with cartoons, tend to be elevated in sugar content and lacking in nutritional value.

A recent study suggests that colorful labels and cartoons on packaging can indicate that a snack might not be very nutritious. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, found that products with marketing designed to appeal to children tend to have higher sugar content and lower nutritional value. Researchers examined nearly 6,000 packaged foods, analyzing both marketing strategies aimed at children and the nutritional information of the products.

Lead study author Dr. Christine Mulligan, a post-doctoral researcher from the University of Toronto, noted that many heavily marketed products targeting children are actually unhealthy and of lower nutritional quality compared to products not promoted to children. Such marketing tactics capitalize on children’s potential to become “brand-loyal adults,” according to Dr. Maya Adam from the Stanford School of Medicine.

Mulligan pointed out that the study likely underestimates the extent of children’s exposure to marketing on food packaging, as this is just one facet of a broader marketing landscape that includes television, social media, sports, community centers, and even schools. The study highlights the impact of such marketing on children’s eating habits, which can lead to long-term health consequences. To address this issue, experts recommend that governments implement strong regulations to prevent harmful marketing practices targeting children. While awaiting regulatory changes, individuals can take steps at home, such as being more conscious of children’s exposure to advertisements and cooking meals at home to have better control over the nutritional quality of their food. Talking to children about marketing’s influence and involving them in healthy food choices during grocery shopping can also make a positive impact.