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Investigating the obesogenic effects of marketing snacks with toys: an experimental study in Latin America

Dario Gregori1*, Simonetta Ballali2, Claudia Elena Gafare3, Adriana Casella4, Giulia Stefanini5, Rogenia de Sousa Alves5, Laura Franchin5, Ignacio Amador6, Neila Maria Almedia Da Silva7 and Javier Dibildox8

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cardiac, Tharacic and Vascular Science, Unit of Biostatisticsm, Epidemiology and Public Health, Via Loredan, 18, 35121, Padova, Italy

2 Prochild ONLUS, Trieste, Italy

3 Department of Nutrition, University of Buenos Aires and Food and Diet Therapy Service, Acute General Hospital Juan A. Fernández, Buenos Aires, Argentina

4 Ramos Mejia Psychology Center, Buenos Aires, Argentina

5 ZETA Research Ltd., Trieste, Italy

6 Instituto Cuarto Centenario, San Louis, Potosì, Mexico

7 Escola Municipal de Ensino Infantil e Fundamental Odilon Braveza, Fortaleza, Brazil

8 University San Louis Potosì, San Louis, Potosì, Mexico

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Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:95  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-95

Published: 10 July 2013



The inclusion of toys in food packages is a common marketing practice, and it is suspected of promoting obesogenic behaviours. This study aimed to determine whether toys packaged with food are indeed increasing the amount of food eaten by children, and if this effect is enhanced by contemporary exposure to TV and/or advertising.


A total of 600 children (balanced according to gender and age groups, 3–6 and 7–10 years old) were randomized in three school facilities in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico and exposed to food (snacks) alone or food associated with toys in an experimental setting. All of the children received the same meal at lunchtime. The products were packages in which chocolate was associated with toys in an egg-shaped container partially filled by chocolate. The children were asked to eat ad libitum for 20 minutes during the afternoon break. In addition, the children were randomized into two groups and either shown or not shown a movie cartoon, with three different levels of exposure to commercials in the TV viewing condition (1, 2 or 3 advertisements).


No significant differences emerged between the “toys” and “no toys” groups even after taking into account exposure to TV, commercials and other confounding factors.


The inclusion of toys in food packages was not shown per se to lead to an increase in the caloric intake of children.

Toys for marketing food; Obesogenic environment; TV exposure; TV advertising; Ad libitum eating studies