According to an eye-opening new study published online this month in the journal Pediatrics, music celebrities are making big money backing everything from snack foods and sugary drinks to burgers, burritos, and pizza in advertisements aimed at kids and teens.
Researchers from New York University made a list of popular stars and compared it to a record of celebrity food and drink endorsements from 2000 through 2014. Overall, more than 160 pop stars were featured in nearly 600 different ads promoting unhealthy foods and beverages.
“Given current obesity rates among teens, it’s incredibly problematic that the majority of music celebrities’ drink endorsements—71 percent—were for sugary beverages like soda,” said lead author Marie Bragg with NYU’s Langone Medical Center. As for food endorsements, Bragg said 81 percent of ads were for unhealthy products such as fast food, candy, and nutritionally poor snacks.
Current research tells us about a third of American youth are overweight and 4.5 million are severely obese, but very few celebrities appear in ads promoting healthier choices such as fruits and veggies—mainly because there is far less money to be made. Researchers encourage celebs to open their eyes to the potential health risks for young people and consider using their influence in a more positive way.
“Celebrities should be aware that their endorsements could exacerbate society’s struggle with obesity, and they should endorse healthy products instead,” said study co-author Alysa N. Miller. At home, parents can help by promoting healthy eating habits early on and setting limits on unhealthful foods and beverages.