As The Dark Knight Rises
storms through the box office, Batman might be saving more than Gotham City. How are superheroes helping to curb the obesity epidemic in our nation’s children?
It’s easy. Just ask them what Batman would eat.
(Image courtesy of Foter)The Science Behind the Cape
Researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab have found a new secret in the battle against the bulge. Their study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity
, took a look at the frequent reality of fast food patronage. Specifically, they looked at the disparity between healthy options
and healthy orders
Because it turns out having apple slices on your menu doesn’t mean anything if every kid orders French fries
with their happy meal.
So the investigation began into whether the priming of a role model’s food choices could rub off on the children in question. And it turns out that what Batman and Spiderman eat can have a huge effect on what our littlest fans are ordering as well. The kids, ranging from six to 12 years old, were presented with photos of admirable role models and less admirable models and asked, “Would this person order apple fries or French fries?”
When it was connected to a picture of a superhero-type, the kids would then choose a healthier option 45% of the time. That’s a major impact on a demographic that can be hard to please.Positive Reinforcement Without the Bribe
The grouping, which was fairly small for a scientific study, helped to prove that small changes in behavior can be brought on through positive association, without the help of a bribe. Rather than offering an ice cream cone if they finish their apples, why not let them make their own choice, modeled after a child’s hero.
The implications of the study are great for the future of healthy eating choices
. If we can enforce great habits at a young age, they are more likely to stick for the rest of their lives. After all, how often do you talk to a smoker who wishes he had never had that first cigarette? That could translate to many of us and our first Krispy Kreme donut.
So if you’re looking for the best way to keep your child eating healthy, while also empowering them to make their own positive choices, you might want to rely on Batman.
It always worked for Commissioner Gordon.Cited Sources
Wansink, B., Shimizu, M. and Camps, G. (2012), What would Batman eat?: priming children to make healthier fast food choices. Pediatric Obesity
, 7: 121–123. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2011.00003.x