January 22, 2018
Beware Celebrity Food and Beverage Endorsements
Wellness Tip

Beware Celebrity Food and Beverage Endorsements

by Berkeley Wellness  

Don’t be swayed by food and beverage endorsements made by pop stars: Most of the products they lend their names to are unhealthy, according to a new study in Pediatrics.

Researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center identified 163 of the most popular recording artists, including Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Britney Spears, Rihanna, and Carrie Underwood, based on songs from the 2013 and 2014 Billboard “Hot 100 Chart.” They then evaluated the nutritional qualities of the foods and beverages associated with the musicians in television, radio, and magazine ads, in web video commercials, and on company websites between 2000 and 2014, as well as the products advertised at their concerts.

Of 26 endorsed foods, 81 percent were high in calories and considered “nutrient poor,” based on the Nutrient Profile Model, a tool used in food marketing research. None of the musicians endorsed fruits, vegetables, or whole grains (though one promoted pistachios). And of 69 nonalcoholic beverages, 71 percent were full of sugar—think Beyonce’s big promotion of Pepsi a few years ago. Among the brands pitched by the celebrities were Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Hot Pockets, McDonald’s, Pop Tarts, Hershey, Doritos, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dairy Queen, and Cracker Jack.

Only three endorsements were for water-related products, including a Brita filter.

“Exposure to food marketing promotes excess consumption, increased purchase requests, and higher preference for the product among children and adults,” the researchers noted—and celebrity endorsements are particularly influential. Moreover, such food marketing—in the order of $2 billion a year spent on ads targeted to children—has been identified as a significant contributor to childhood obesity.

Under the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, food companies have voluntarily pledged to reduce marketing to children younger than 12. The NYU researchers call for an expansion of this pledge to include teenagers, who are exposed now to some 6,000 ads a year, on average. Better yet, they say, music celebrities should serve as positive role models and endorse healthful products instead.

Also see The Truth About Celebrity Diets.