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Opening Arguments

Now I'm hungry

Exciting news on the "So you think you have free will?" front. A new study shows that kids respond to sneaky sales pitches:

Popular cartoon characters are influencing the taste preferences of very young children, and not in a positive way, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that the branding of American food product packaging with characters such as Dora the Explorer drives preschoolers to choose higher-calorie, less healthful foods over more nutritious options.

"The bottom line is that when kids are presented with a choice of graham crackers, fruit snacks or carrots, and the only difference is that one package has a licensed character on it, they actually think that the food with the character tastes better," said study author Christina Roberto, a doctoral student working at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

This isn't exactly earth-shattering news. Kids have been pestering moms for Happy Meals ever since McDonald's started advertising them on TV. What's a little surprising is the factoid in one of the stories about the study noting that close to $1 billion a year is spent in this country on marketing aimed at children under 12.

Meanwhile, another study that included an IU researcher found that people who were in a good mood or "aroused in a way" that made them feel positive and happy made unhealthy food choices:

In a study conducted amongst two groups, one watched a positive but calm movie clip while another set of participants watched a positive but arousing movie clip. All participants were then asked to choose between two snacks: a cup of grapes and a cup of M&Ms.

The results showed that participants who watched the arousing movie clip were more likely to choose M&Ms than those who watched the calm clip. Moreover, when participants who watched the calm movie clip would choose M&Ms, they were more likely to carefully regulate or monitor the amount of M&Ms they ate.

The team also found that participants who watched the calm movie and performed a light exercise on a step stool were more likely to choose M&Ms than those who were sedentary.

"In order to resist temptations and make choices that are healthy and have long-term benefits, a person needs to be both in a positive frame of mind and have the available mental energy needed to make good choices," the authors conclude.

But what about kids who have just seen something arousing and then get pushed around by Dora? God knows what they'll want to eat.

And this just in on the food beat:

Yes, the latest assault on America's waistline comes in the form of Friendly's recently launched Grilled Cheese BurgerMelt. Move over, Double Down, there's a new "something with far more calories than bread as a bun" sandwich in town.

A cheeseburger with grilled cheese sandwiches as the buns. That is just so awesome I can't stop drooling. Quick, somebody give me a cup of carrot sticks and show me a calm movie.