Online games used by food manufacturers to promote their products can sway food choices made by children, according to a new research report.
Food Industry website Flex News takes note of a study conducted at Georgetown University which found that foods suggested by advergames were craved by kids immediately after playing. The good news is that games pushing healthy snacks had a similar impact.
Study authors Drs. Tiffany A. Pempek and Sandra L. Calvert interpret their work in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine:
[The findings] suggest that concerns about online advergames that market unhealthy foods are justified...
[Using positive food messages with] this kind of social marketing approach could tip the scales toward the selection of higher-quality snacks, thereby helping to curb the obesity epidemic...
Our results suggest that not only is there a market for healthier foods and beverages, but advergames can be used to promote healthier choices and eating patterns, thereby tipping the balance toward a healthier society.
In the study, 30 low-income, African-American children between the ages of 9 and 10 played a Pac-Man-like game. In one version, junk food was gobbled up. In the other, healthy snacks were the target. The researchers found that kids who played the healthy version of the game tended to choose nutritious snacks afterward.