Reality TV shows featuring overweight people are turning Kiwi kids off junk food, a recent study has found.

Marketing researcher at Massey University’s Auckland campus Jacinta Hawkins looked at the influence of television content on the health of children aged between seven and 13. She found TV shows like ‘The Biggest Loser’ can trigger a “fear factor” in children.

“When I asked them about how health was promoted and where they learnt about nutrition and physical activity patterns of behaviour and stuff, they commented on reality TV programmes,” Ms Hawkins said.

“They talked about the fact that the people that they saw were really big and that they didn’t want to end up like that.

“They made comments that it was really horrible that people were really big and that the shows kind of demonstrate what you’ll be like if you continue with poor habits of eating and exercise.

“They were recognising that there needed to be changes in behaviour if they didn’t want to turn out like that.”

Ms Hawkins spoke to 92 Auckland children from six different primary schools and presented the findings at the Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference at the end of last year.

“A lot of the research out there is looking at advertising and this was quite interesting to note that programme content is having an impact on children,” she said.

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