Study: Athletes endorsing unhealthy food, drinks
Researchers: Kids between 12 and 17 targeted most
A majority of the food and beverages being endorsed by high-profile athletes are for sports drinks, soft drinks and fast food, according to a new study.
Yale University researchers looked 100 professional athletes, the products they endorse, and how often kids are exposed to their ads. Researchers selected the athletes based on "Bloomberg Business Week's 2010 Power 100" report.
Results show nearly 80 percent of the food in advertisements endorsed by athletes were energy-dense and nutrient-poor and 93 percent of the advertised drinks had all calories coming from added sugar.
"We're spending a lot of our time educating kids on the importance of drinking health beverages and eating healthy," said Cleveland Clinic dietician Laura Jeffers, who was not involved in the study. "When high-profile athletes are endorsing things that may not be as healthy, it is a mixed message for the kids."
Pro football player Peyton Manning and basketball star LeBron James endorsed the most energy-dense, nutrient-poor products in 2010. Researchers say kids between the ages of 12 and 17 saw the most athlete-endorsed food and beverage brand commercials. They think athletes should be aware of the health value of the products they endorse.
"I think it's important for kids to realize that to be able to perform at your best, you have to eat a healthy diet," Jeffers said. "So there are sports players that may not eat pizza or they may drink pop, but it's on occasion and in order for them perform at that level they have to eat healthy."
A sports marketing expert says bashing food endorsements is unfair, because opinions among some nutritionists have been known to shift.
The study is published in the journal "Pediatrics."
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