Study: Pop stars endorse unhealthy food

The overwhelming majority of food and beverage products endorsed by popular music artists are unhealthy, according to a new descriptive study published in Pediatrics.

For the study, researchers identified recording artists who appeared on the 2013 and 2014 Billboard Hot 100 Chart and examined data on celebrity endorsements of food products gathered from company websites, YouTube commercials, an advertising database and media reports. The nutritional quality of the food was determined by a nutrient profile index. The nutrition of the nonalcoholic beverages was based upon the amount of calories from added sugar.

Researchers found that 65 celebrities were collectively associated with 57 food and beverage brands — 71 percent of endorsed nonalcoholic beverages were found to have robust sugar content and more than 80 percent of the endorsed food products were determined to be nutrient deficient and energy dense.

According to the study's authors, children and adolescents are often the target audience of celebrity endorsements involving food products and these marketing campaigns have previously been linked with childhood obesity. Food and beverage companies spend approximately $2 billion on ads targeting American youth.

"The popularity of music celebrities among adolescents makes them uniquely poised to serve as positive role models," said Alysa N. Miller, study co-author and research coordinator in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone in New York. "Celebrities should be aware that their endorsements could exacerbate society's struggle with obesity — and they should endorse healthy products instead."

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