Is Winnie the Pooh making your kids fat?

Children eat more cookies and candy after observing plump cartoon characters, concludes a University of Colorado study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

Children 8, 12 and 13 years old ate “almost twice as much indulgent food as kids who are exposed to perceived healthier looking cartoon characters or no characters at all,” said researcher Margaret C. Campbell.

However, taking a quiz on health knowledge erased the effect of looking at an ovoid cartoon character. Children were asked to choose the healthier option represented in pictures and words — such as getting your sleep versus watching TV, soda versus milk and playing inside versus playing outside.

Parents “should think about the way they might be associating food with fun for kids — in the form of exposure to cartoon characters, for instance — as opposed to associating food with nutrition and the family structure,” said Campbell.

She praised Kellogg’s for making Tony the Tiger slimmer and more athletic, though he’s still promoting Frosted Flakes. Was Tony ever plump? I don’t recall that.

Cereal and Food Packaging

Obesity starts at home, not at school

While childhood obesity tripled in the U.S. between the early 1970s and the late 2000s, weight gain doesn’t correlate to junk food sold in schools, concludes a study in the January issue of Sociology of Education. Kids do most of their eating — and overeating — outside of school, according to the  study, which followed children from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“We kept looking for a connection that just wasn’t there,” said Jennifer Van Hook, a Penn State sociology and demography professor, who was the lead author.

While 59.2 percent of fifth graders and 86.3 percent of eighth graders attended schools that sold junk food, a significant increase, the percentage of students who were overweight or obese decreased from 39.1 percent of  fifth grade students to 35.4 percent of eighth graders.

Kids don’t have much time to eat at school, Van Hook said.  At home, they can “eat endlessly.”

Bad eating habits start very early, she added.