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A Healthier You

Not even a social media star can make kids eat their veggies, study says


(CNN) – Social media influencers — bloggers, streamers and posters with millions of followers online — can inspire children to eat junk food, but when it comes to healthy food, their spell over youth no longer works, according to a new study.

Researchers in the UK studied 176 children ages 9 to 11, asking them to view fake Instagram profiles of two real YouTube video bloggers chosen for their popularity with kids under 13. The children were divided into three groups; one viewed pictures of the bloggers with unhealthy foods, a second viewed pictures of the bloggers with healthy food such as carrots and grapes, and a third viewed the bloggers without food items. The children were then provided with a selection of healthy and unhealthy snacks.

The results, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, show that children who viewed pictures of influencers with unhealthy foods ate on average 91 calories more than the group who saw pictures of the influencers without any food items, and these calories were more likely to have come from unhealthy snacks such as jelly candy and chocolate buttons.

The kids who viewed influencers with healthy food items ate about the same as those who saw influencers without food items altogether.

“We originally thought any exposure to food would increase intake, but we only found it for unhealthy foods,” said Anna Coates, a doctoral student at the University of Liverpool and lead author of the study.

Coates became interested in the topic when she realized that YouTube bloggers were advertising within their content, and she wondered how their influence compared with that of traditional celebrities.

Celebrity endorsement of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt increases children’s preference for these foods and their ultimate consumption of them, previous studies have shown.

Children view influencers as more trustworthy than traditional celebrities, probably because they seem more familiar, research says.

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