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TV confuses children about which foods are healthy, new study finds

outing the health benefits of even the most nutritionally bankrupt of foods, child viewers are likely to become confused about which foods are in fact healthy."

Adults, Harrison said, should be able to understand the difference between foods that are healthy because they help one grow up, and foods that are healthy because they prevent one from growing out, "but this is too much to expect kids to understand."

Study findings appear in the most recent issue of the journal Health Communication. Harrison's research focuses on media effects on children and adolescents and the impact of media exposure on body image and eating disorders.

For the study, 134 children in the first through third grades were asked to respond to a questionnaire that measured their nutritional knowledge, nutritional reasoning and television viewing, once at the onset of the study and again six weeks later.

On average, the children reported that they watched 28 hours of television a week; there was no correlation between gender and age and the amount of television watched.

In the nutritional knowledge part of the study, children were presented with six pairs of foods and asked to choose which item in each pair was better for helping them "grow up strong and healthy." One food in each pair was predetermined to be more "nutritionally dense" than the other, Harrison said. The pairs were carrot/celery, rice cake/wheat bread, jelly/peanut butter, spinach/lettuce, fat-free ice cream/cottage cheese, and orange juice/Diet Coke.

The children displayed "moderate" nutritional knowledge, Harrison said. Out of a perfect score of 6, they got a median score of 3.7 the first time, and 3.92 the second. To test their nutritional reasoning, Harrison asked the children why they chose each food, and their answers were scored as representing either nutritional reasoning or non-nutritional reasoning. Examples of nutritional reasoning were: "More juicy, has vita
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Contact: Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
andreal@uiuc.edu
217-333-2177
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
8-Jun-2005


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