, et al
The effect of playing advergames that promote energy-dense snacks or fruit on actual food intake among children
Am J Clin Nutr.
; doi:

Researchers from Amsterdam examined the effect of advergames, defined as “free online [video] games that integrate advertising messages, logos, and trade characters,” on food consumption of high-calorie candy or fruit and sought to determine if snack choices were affected by the type of advergame played by children. For the study, children aged 8 to 10 years were randomized to 1 of 4 test groups. Children in 3 of the test groups played a 5-minute memory-oriented advergame that featured advertisements for either 1) a popular candy brand, 2) a fruit brand, including 8 different fruits, fruit cups, and drinks, or 3) a popular Dutch toy (nonfood) brand. The games were identical except for the advertised product. The fourth group, a control group, participated only in the snack portion of the study, without first playing a game. Following the game, children were brought to a different table for a 5-minute break, during which they were told they could eat as much as they liked of provided snack foods. A total of 4 bowls, each containing a different food – candy featured in the advergame (jelly cola bottles), fruit featured in the advergame (bananas), a nonfeatured brand of candy (chocolate), and a nonfeatured fruit (apples) – were placed on the table. Caloric intake was determined by weighing bowls before and after the session.

A total of 270 children were enrolled. The 4 experimental groups were similar with regard to gender, BMI, age, reported hunger prior to starting the experiment, and brand and product recognition. Children who played any food-related advergame (candy or fruit) demonstrated increased caloric intake when compared to children who played the nonfood advergame or no advergame. Children who played the candy and fruit advergames ate significantly more energy-dense foods, including both the featured candy (P < .01) and the nonfeatured candy (P < .05), than the control group. Furthermore, children who played the fruit advergame did not eat significantly more fruit than the other groups.

The authors conclude that playing food-related advergames increased food consumption, particularly for high-calorie, low-nutrition foods, regardless of the advertised brand or product type featured in the game.

Dr Ameenuddin has disclosed no financial relationship relevant to this commentary. This commentary does not contain a discussion of an unapproved/investigative use of a commercial product/device.

Screen time, particularly in the form of television, has been previously linked to increased caloric intake of energy-dense but nutritionally poor foods (see AAP Grand Rounds, October 2012;28[4]:45). But, as traditional screen time has evolved to include other activities (eg, online video games) and additional media platforms (mobile devices), we wonder if the same rules apply.

The authors of the current study are not the first to examine the...

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