Entertainers Endorse Junk Food, Study Finds
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Music may be food for the soul, but the food and beverages that pop singers endorse these days may be more like food for diabetes, and obesity according to a new study published June 2016 in Pediatrics.
This is believed to be the first study to use a rigorous nutritional analysis to evaluate healthfulness of food and drinks marketed by music stars, reviewing dozens of advertisements that were disseminated over a 14-year period. Although many food and beverage companies have taken voluntary pledges not to target children under 12 years old with certain marketing, teens are not included.
Food and beverage marketing has been identified in a variety of epidemiologic and psychology studies as a significant environmental contributor to childhood obesity.
"It is important to raise awareness about how companies are using celebrities popular with these audiences to market their unhealthy products," said lead researcher Marie Bragg Research has already shown that food advertising leads to overeating, and the food industry spends US$1.8 billion per year marketing to youth alone. These celebrity endorsement deals are often worth millions of dollars each,"
What the study found was pop stars made deals with brands that are energy-dense, nutrient-poor. Among these, one of the most famous and lucrative deals is Beyonce's arrangement with Pepsi – estimated to be worth $50 million.
Justin Timberlake who has a multi-tiered sponsorship deal with McDonalds was among the pop celebrities with the most endorsements, which also included Baauer, will.i.am, Maroon 5, and Britney Spears, Pitbull, and Jessie J. But you can see others including Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, Shakira, Katy Perry, and more – along with the products they're signed up with, in the image below, and in the study published in Pediatrics.
List of celebrities who endorse junk food to teens
To identify popular music stars, the investigators went through Billboard Magazine’s “Hot 100” song charts from 2013 and 2014. The researchers also verified their popularity and marketing appeal with teens by reviewing Teen Choice Award winners and quantified the number of YouTube video views associated with the celebrities’ food and nonalcoholic beverage brand endorsements.
The investigators then catalogued every endorsement between 2000 and 2014 using AdScope, an advertisement database that contains all forms of ads, including television, magazine, and radio, and also searched for official commercials or endorsements on YouTube and in media sources.
After sorting the endorsements into different marketing categories, the authors found that 65 of 163 identified pop stars were associated with 57 different unhealthy food and beverage brands. Equally alarming, none of the music stars identified in the study endorsed fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Only one endorsed a natural food deemed healthy—pistachios.
To assess nutritional value of the endorsed food products, the investigators analyzed nutrition information on food labels using the Nutrient Profile Model, which has been used in other food marketing research studies and provides a score that represents nutrient content. Twenty-one out of 26 food products, or 81%, were deemed “nutrient poor.”
“Given the heavy targeting of adolescents and the amount of money they spend on foods and beverages, voluntary food marketing reduction pledges should expand to include teens,” says Dr. Bragg. “This also would be consistent with American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, which encourages pediatricians to support local and national efforts to reduce food marketing while also counseling patients to limit screen time.”
Every year, American children see 4700 advertisements, and adolescents view 5900 advertisements.Celebrity food endorsements promote higher product preference, and exposure to any kind of food advertising is linked to “excessive consumption,” according to research. Obesity has become such a pressing public health issue that society must acknowledge the human suffering and costs associated with diabetes, obesity, and associated comorbidities. Musicians, actors, and other celebrities can be tremendously influential, particularly for the young fan base that may be swayed by their endorsements. Celebrities should leverage their influence to promote more healthful messages, and more effort should be made to reduce the exposure of children and adolescents to marketing, particularly for unhealthy food and nonalcoholic beverages.
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