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Study Chides Athletes Promoting Unhealthy Foods, Beverages

October 10, 2013

1 Min Read
Study Chides Athletes Promoting Unhealthy Foods, Beverages

NEW HAVEN, Conn.Superstar athletes are feeling the heat, as their endorsements for unhealthy foods and beverages and their fan-supported prominence is shining in the bad light of the obesity epidemic and the pursuit for the industry to market responsibly to children, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers at Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University have concluded LeBron James, Serena Williams and Peyton Manning are the highest contributors to the marketing of unhealthy foods among the most influential athletes in the world. The athletes were analyzed based on their prominence in their sport and the value of their endorsements. Researchers then created a weighted index on a scale of 100 that reflected the negative marketing and nutrition impact," with the lowest scores being the most negative.

Manning, Williams and James, who are among the most recognizable athletes in the world, earned scores of 28.9, 32.4 and 42.7, respectively. Endorsements include Pepsi-Cola (Manning), McDonalds (James) and Oreo cookies (Williams).

The results are skewed by the athletes influence on popular culture. For example, hoopster Chris Paul, a pitchman for McDonalds and Powerade, earned a score of 100 in part because his endorsement power carries less weight than other elite athletes.

Four out of five of the 62 endorsed food products in the sample were deemed energy-dense and nutrient-poor," while 93% of the 46 beverages in the sample received all their calories from added sugars. Children ages 12 to 17 years were found most likely to be exposed to the advertisements.

With the recognition that childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, the public appetite for sports figures selling the likes of soft drinks and sugary cereals seems to be waning.

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