A recent study revealed that most of the foods and beverages endorsed by celebrities are unhealthy.
The food and beverage industry spends $2 billion a year on advertisements featuring popular performers in order to target teens and young adults. Celebrities with the most endorsements included Justin Timberlake, will.i.am, Maroon 5, and Britney Spears, and their collaborations were mainly with fast food chains and snack and soda companies, such as McDonald’s, Chili’s, A&W, and Nabisco.
The most popular stars with celebrity endorsements, as determined by the volume of YouTube views, were Rihanna, Britney Spears, and the Queen B herself, Beyonce.
Researchers found that the companies with the most celebrity endorsements were PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Red Bull, all of which are notoriously unhealthy beverage brands who pack their products with tooth-rotting sugar and unnatural ingredients.
Marie Bragg, from the Department of Population Health at New York University School of Medicine, and her colleagues discovered that, in fact, 81% of celebrity-endorsed products were unhealthy based on the Nutrient Profile Index of energy density and nutrients. Very few celebrities were endorsing healthy products, and not one popular TV, film, or music star was featured in ads for fruits, vegetables, or whole grain products.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a specialist in obesity-related illnesses and assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa said, “Right now nobody bats an eye at Beyonce signing a $50 million deal to sell liquid candy to kids.” Freedhoff would like to see the government impose a ban on the advertising of sugar-sweetened beverages similar to those that ban the advertising of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18.
Celebrities endorsements aren’t just limited to junk food, either. Snoop Dogg has his own line of marijuana, and in April Whoopi Goldberg announced the creation of a medical marijuana company designed to help women with period cramps. Or, as the company tactfully describes itself, Maya & Whoopi sells “Medical cannabis products designed for relief from menstrual discomfort.”
Bragg suggested an increase in media literacy among teens, encouraging kids and parents to speak out against celebrity endorsements for unhealthy products. She feels that these big corporations are using pop icons like Beyonce to promote their harmful products to a vulnerable population of young people, which reinforces the rate of childhood obesity and poor oral hygiene.
As one in 10 Americans reports regularly forgetting to brush their teeth, the last thing our society needs is more pressure to indulge in the consumption of tooth-corroding and body-rotting fast food, soda, and junk food.