A new US study has found that children are more likely to make healthier choices when food items are labelled with emojis.
The study, which was published in the journal Appetite, found that adding “emolabels” to foods – similar to emojis found on smartphones – meant children were more likely to make healthy food decisions.
The study looked at the food choices of children aged between five and 11, asking them to choose four food items from aisles set up to look like a grocery store. Most of the items were labelled with emolabels; nutritious foods with smiley face stickers and less healthy foods with frowning faces.
According to the study, 83 per cent of students switched one of their food choices to a healthy food option, when emolabels were used.
Study leader and current research chair at the Centre for Behavioural Health Research for the University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies, Greg Privitera, told the Washington Post that children lack the healthy literacy to make food decisions based on nutritional information, but are able to understand emotional expressions from an early age.
“As young as six months to one year, they can accurately use basic expressions of emotions to make decisions that make perfect emotional sense,” he said.
“We’ve basically turned food into picture books. We’ve take out all the information about what is in the book – the nutrition in the food – and now base all our decisions on the pictures outside the box.”
“If we can start to use images to ….add information about the healthfulness of these foods, children will use that information and make healthier food choices overall.”
Dr Privitera hopes to use the report’s findings to support a large-scale, population-based study in the future.
According to the federal government, one in four children in Australia are overweight or obese – could emojis be the solution to cracking the obesity epidemic?
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