Should Athletes Be Allowed To Endorse Junk Food?

A family watching football on TV with snacks on a tableThink about it: The majority of beverages celebrity athletes endorse receive 100% of their calories from added sugars. But athletes are required to be in tip-top shape—so why the mixed messages?

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At the pro-level, and once they attain fame, the endorsement deals come rolling in. But a new study shows that the majority of foods these star athletes promote are nutrient-poor, encouraging young people to adopt bad eating habits.

Researchers say that previous studies have shown that parents are more likely to buy foods that are marketed by pro-athletes, as they are seen to be “healthier.” Additionally, in 2010, children between the ages of 12 and 17 saw the most food and beverage commercials that were endorsed by athletes, making these products highly desirable to a young audience.

To assess the nutritional quality of the foods from these endorsements, researchers used a Nutrient Profiling Index. They assessed drinks based on the percentage of calories from added sugar. They found that most of the food and beverage endorsements were for sports drinks, soft drinks and fast food. In total, 93% of the endorsed beverages received 100% of their calories from added sugars. Additionally, 79% of the food products were energy-dense and nutrient-poor, researchers add.

More than other athletes, LeBron James, Peyton Manning and Serena Williams had the most food and beverage endorsements. The researchers say they also had the most endorsements for these energy-dense, nutrient-poor items.

The researchers conclude their study by writing that physically-fit celebrities who endorse unhealthy food and drinks are sending mixed messages to kids concerning diet and health. They urge athletes to become aware of the nutritional worth of these products before endorsing them.