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Athlete endorsements tend to promote junk food
Professional athletes who endorse food products aren't doing people any favors, suggests new research from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale.
Most athletes promote sports beverages, soft drinks and fast food, the research reveals, and the people who are paying the most attention to these advertisements are an already vulnerable crowd: adolescents.
Researchers analyzed 100 professional athletes based on the Business Week 2010 Power 100 Report, which ranked athletes based on endorsement values and the prominence each athlete has in his or her sport. Then the endorsements were sorted into categories, like food/beverages, consumer goods, retail, airline or automotive. For food- and beverage-related endorsements, researches assessed the nutritional quality of each product.
Food and beverages made up the second largest category of endorsements from the 512 products associated with the athletes. Sports drinks, sodas and fast food were the most popular endorsements, but at a price: 93 percent of the beverages being promoted had all calories coming from added sugars.
“The promotion of energy-dense, nutrient-poor products by some of the world’s most physically fit and well-known athletes is an ironic combination that sends mixed messages about diet and health,” said study author Marie Bragg.
The bigger problem, the research team found, was that food and beverage endorsements had the most far-reaching exposure, inundating audiences on television, the Internet, radio and in newspapers and magazines.
Athletes have a responsibility to know the health value of what they are promoting, Bragg and her team noted, and they should use their celebrity status to help encourage healthy habits among young people.
Results of the study can be found in the November issues of the journal Pediatrics.
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