Researchers in the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society at the University of Liverpool examined the food preferences of a group of 281 children ages 6-13 from the Northwest of England.
The children were shown an episode of a popular cartoon and then they were shown it again two weeks later. In each case, the cartoon was preceded by 5 minutes of commercials -- one set showing toy ads and one showing mainly snacks and fast-food.
Emma Boyland of the University of Liverpool says after each showing the children were given lists of various food items, both branded and unbranded, and asked what they would like to eat.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that after viewing the food commercials the children were more likely to pick unhealthy foods.
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