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Cartoons Can Help Promote Healthy Eating

Update Date: Feb 10, 2014 06:44 PM EST

Reading cartoons can help promote fruit consumption among young people, according to a new study.

New research reveals that minority students who were exposed to Japanese comics encouraging fruit intake significantly improved health snack selection.

"Manga comics could be used to promote healthier behaviors and beliefs related to fruit consumption in at-risk youth. The graphics and minimal text make it a promising format to engage younger populations," lead author May May Leung, PhD, RD, City University of New York School of Public Health and Hunter College, said in a news release.

The latest study involved 57 young people who were around 11 years of age. Researchers said nearly 90 percent of the participants were either Black/African American or Hispanic and 54 percent were female.

Participants were asked to read either a Manga comic titled "Fight for Your Right to Fruit" or a non-health-related newsletter. Afterwards, they were asked to choose between a health snack like oranges, grapes, apples, strawberries or an energy-dense snack like cookies, potato chips, nacho chips, and cheese-filled crackers.

The findings revealed that 61 percent of children in the cartoon group picked a healthy snack compared to just 35 percent of children in the newsletter group.

Researchers said that Japanese cartoons are a unique form of multimodal narrative media combining visual images and words. Researchers explain that Japanese cartoons, or Manga, works by "transporting" or immersing readers into the narrative world.

The findings are published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

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