Food products marketed by celebrities in US unhealthy: Study

A vast majority of the food and beverage products endorsed by some of the most popular celebrities in the US are unhealthy, finds a new study.

The findings showed that advertisements on fast foods, sweets as well as non-alcoholic beverages like soda and other sugary drinks, were the second-largest in the endorsement category, comprising 18 per cent of endorsements and frequently targetted children and adolescents as the audience.

Celebrity food endorsements promote higher product preference, and exposure to any kind of food advertising is linked to “excessive consumption, the researchers warned.

“Research has already shown that food advertising leads to overeating and the food industry spends $1 billion per year marketing to youth alone,” lead author Marie Bragg, assistant professor at the New York University (NYU).

Full-calorie soft drinks were the most commonly endorsed in the category. Of 69 beverages endorsed, 49 or 71 per cent were sugar-sweetened.

Twenty-one out of 26 food products — or 81 per cent — were deemed as “nutrient poor”.

In contrast, water-related endorsements appeared only thrice. Also, none of the stars were found endorsing fruits, vegetables or whole grains.

Such advertisements have led to an alarming rise in childhood and teenage obesity, the researchers rued in the paper published in the journal Pediatrics.

The study used a rigorous nutritional analysis to evaluate the health quotient of food and drinks marketed by music stars, reviewing dozens of advertisements that were disseminated over a 14-year period.

“Because of our childhood and teenage obesity public health crises, it is important to raise awareness about how companies are using celebrities popular with these audiences to market their unhealthy products,” added Bragg.

“As the popularity of celebrities among adolescents makes them uniquely poised to serve as positive role models, they ought to endorse healthy products and aid in exacerbating the society’s struggle with obesity,” added Alysa N. Miller from NYU.

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