You’ve seen the commercials. Professional athletes with high profiles in the media are endorsing a food and/or a drink. Are these foods and drinks healthy? Are they something a professional athlete might eat or drink before a game or competition? Not likely! According to a recent study to be published in the magazine Pediatrics, most of the products endorsed by pro athletes fall squarely into the junk food category.
The study, conducted by researchers on staff at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, looked at endorsement deals for over 100 star athletes. Out of 512 brands being pedalled by the athletes, 122 involved food or drinks. Out of 62 food brands, nearly 50 were high in calories. These foods were nutritionally poor and would offer little or nothing to boost the performance of an athlete. The drinks endorsed by the pros were equally dismal. About 46 sports drinks were endorsed in TV ads. Almost all of these drinks (a whopping 43) were so full of sugar that all the calories came from this unhealthy food group alone.
The researchers noted that these junk food endorsements were targeted towards teens who viewed the most number of T.V. ads. Who was on the list for the most endorsements? NFL Quarterback Peyton Manning, NBA star LeBron James, and tennis superstar Serena Williams. The researchers pointed out that it’s ironic that the most physically fit, successful, and well-known athletes are promoting foods and drinks that are high in calories and with no nutritional value. There is definitely a mixed message here about how to be healthy and fit and what to eat to best compliment this fitness level.
Back in the day, it wasn’t unusual for a pro athlete to endorse a cigarette brand. Today, this would be unacceptable. The researchers would like to see the promotion of junk food become equally unacceptable. Pro athletes should be encouraged to think less of huge payouts and more about sending healthy messages to the young men and women who look up to them and emulate them. We are all guilty of following in the footsteps of celebrities from time to time. Kids are especially vulnerable to this type of behavior. Promoting junk food will only help to exacerbate the childhood obesity epidemic that’s currently affecting the U.S.
All of us can learn a lesson from this study and think about the ways food and beverage marketing affects our choices when we eat at restaurants and buy groceries. Do you still crave French fries, cola, and sweet treats? Do you purchase these foods to reward yourself? Do you consider vegetables or fruit a necessary but dreary part of your daily diet? Foods high in nutrition, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have the ability to sustain you throughout the day, fueling your body with vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients. Make sure you’re not discounting these food groups on a regular basis simply because you’ve been exposed to far more images of people eating cheeseburgers than you have of people eating steamed broccoli.
Nutritionally poor foods keep you coming back for more because your body has not been given the nutrients it needs to function properly. Don’t fall for the ads—celebrate the fact that you can eat healthy, nutrient-rich food every day. You will feel infinitely better when you approach your diet in this way.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Mulholland, A., CTV News web site, Oct. 7, 2013; http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/health-headlines/study-criticizes-sports-stars-who-endorse-junk-food-1.1486694, last accessed Oct. 8, 2013.
Bragg, M.A., et al., “The use of sports references in marketing of food and beverage products in supermarkets.” Public Health Nutr. April 2013; 16(4): 738-42.
Maher, A., et al., “Patterns of sports sponsorship by gambling, alcohol and food companies: an Internet survey,” BMC Public Health. April 11, 2006; 6: 95.