A team of Michigan State University researchers studied advergames - online video games that promote a particular product, service or company by integrating it into the game, and are typically offered for free.
They found that such games have a tendency to promote foods that are chock full of fat, sugar and sodium.
The researchers located hundreds of advergames actively played by children on food marketer websites. For the study, they focused on 145 different websites and found 439 food brands being promoted through advergames on those sites.
Many of the games centered around high-fat, high-sugar and high-sodium products.
"One of the things we were concerned about was that the majority of foods that received the most interest were those that tended to be energy dense - high in calories - and not high in nutrients," said Lorraine Weatherspoon, a co-director of the project and an associate professor of food science and human nutrition.
"These foods typically included high-sugar snacks and cereals as well as instant or canned soups, sugar-sweetened beverages and several types of candy products," Weatherspoon said.
The games are quick and easy to play. They use brand names, logos, pictures of the product and even a spokes-character as a part of the game.
"Compared to a typical TV commercial that would last maybe 30 seconds, these games are fun and engaging and children can play them for much longer periods of time," said Elizabeth Taylor Quilliam, project co-director and assistant professor of advertising and public relations.


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