Health Team

UNC study: Most top family films promote unhealthy eating

Posted January 31, 2014 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated January 31, 2014 7:13 p.m. EST

— Even G-rated movies might not be completely kid-friendly when it comes to unhealthy eating habits, new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill research reports.

Part of a UNC study called “Pass the Popcorn” found that 70 percent of the top 20 grossing family films between 2006 and 2010 contained scenes of unhealthy eating and “weight-related stigma.”

“The scenes depicting unhealthy things outnumber the scenes depicting healthy scenes 2 to 1,” said Dr. Eliana Perrin of UNC’s Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the study’s author.

The research revealed that more than half the films depicted unhealthy snacks, a quarter depicted exaggerated portion sizes and a large percentage showed characters in sedentary behavior.

Perrin said the films, which include family-friendly hits like “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda,” also promote weight-related bullying.

“Lots of messages encouraging them to be overweight, and yet, when they are overweight, they’re condemned – they’re the funny one, they’re the stupid one and they’re the lazy one,” Perrin said.

“It’s just a clear example of bullying because of obesity, and it’s not OK,” she said. “It’s there in the movies, and it’s meant to be funny.”

But Perrin said researchers are still unclear on how exactly these scenes affect young viewers – the subject of the study’s second phase.

“They’re clearly seeing it as funny, but does it mean they’ll bully the next overweight kid?” she said. “That’s what we really need to figure out.”

Perrin said it’s important for parents to watch these movies with their kids and discuss scenes of unhealthy behavior.