Yale researchers are urging sports stars to stop hawking unhealthy foods and drinks in ads targeted at kids and teens, reported NBC News on October 7. Their concern: When young people see their sports idols urge them to eat foods high in sugar and calories, it makes that junk food more tempting.
In a paper published October 7 in the journal Pediatrics, the authors asked superstar athletes to stop accepting those high money offers from food corporations. They cited their study, which analyzed the impact on kids when pro athletes appear in ads like the Papa John's Pizza commercial starring Peyton Manning. The researchers contend that these endorsements by powerhouse athletes can confuse kids when it comes to eating right.
“Our ultimate hope would be that athletes reject the unhealthy endorsements or, at the very least, promote healthy foods,” said Marie Bragg, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Yale University. “These athletes have an opportunity to work with parents. Instead, they’re promoting really unhealthy foods.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently slammed the choice of Shaquille O'Neal for the First Lady's Let's Move program because he promotes sugary beverages: Read about their views by clicking here.
So which star has the most peddle power among kids? LeBron James of the NBA champion Miami Heat. LeBron rakes in $42 million per year by endorsing McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and other products. And despite her healthy diet, Serena Williams ranks as number three. She's done commercials for McDonald’s and Oreo cookies.
“When taking into account the nutrient quality of the products endorsed and the amount of advertising for each product, Peyton Manning, LeBron James, and Serena Williams are the highest contributors to the marketing of unhealthy foods,” the authors wrote.
And they are concerned about the mixed messages when unhealthy foods are promoted “by some of the world’s most physically fit and well-known athletes." The Yale researchers called it "an ironic combination that sends mixed messages about diet and health,” comparing today's superstars who push Oreo cookies to the cigarette ads of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.