Celebrity advertisements push junk food

By Sheryl Kay • Published: January 9th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

We’d all like to think our children will not succumb to outside pressures, but the fact is, children are impressionable, especially when it comes to them listening to celebrities. When popular faces from sports speak, kids take note.

That makes for a good opportunity to serve as role models, and while many celebrities do just that, apparently many don’t. New research, just published in the journal Pediatrics, indicates that some sports figures are promoting many foods that are not healthy choices, a fact that is especially troubling considering that athletes in particular should advocate fitness and good eating habits.

The investigators analyzed advertising deals for 100 of the most successful athletes over a 12-month period. During that time, athletes promoted more than 500 brands. About one-quarter of them were for beverages and food.

Out of the 62 food products the athletes endorsed, nearly 50 were high in calories and low in nutritional value. Almost 80 percent were considered junk food. Beverages followed suit. Of the 46 that the athletes endorsed, 43 were loaded with added sugar.

The team also looked at viewing times and noted that children and teens were watching these particular advertisements far more often than adults. Although the athletes did not specifically say so in the endorsement, the messages implied that someone could eat or drink unhealthy foods and still stay as healthy and as fit as an athlete.

If the large sums of money companies are willing to spend to sign on athletes as spokespeople are any evidence, the ads are working. The researchers caution parents to be more aware of what their children are viewing. Look for channels that are commercial-free or stick to DVDs. Better yet, head outside and play sports.