Pop music and the celebrities that create it influence society in a plethora of ways from the kinds of clothes we wear to the kinds of cars we drive to even the kind of foods we eat. A recent study conducted by researchers at New York University has found that celebrities tend to endorse nutritionally wanting foods more commonly, and suggest that adolescents tend to be the most influenced by the products that the celebrities endorse. They hypothesise that a rampant celebrity endorsement of junk food is playing a role in the obesity epidemic that has hit America.
The researchers first collated a list of food endorsements by popular music celebrities over a 14 year period. It then evaluated these foods based on nutrient value and found that 79% of the promoted beverages were sugary drinks while 80% of the foods were nutrient poor. Take a look at the table below, published in the Paediatrics journal:
Out of these, only a few foods can be deemed ‘healthy’; PSY promoted wonderful pistachio, Shakira promoted Activia and Carrie Underwood promoted Vitamin Water.
Celebrities and Junk Food
Interestingly, most musicians and celebrities have admitted that they try to avoid junk food to maintain their physical appearance. For instance, in an interview, Justin Timberlake once commented ““I’m such a Type A personality-when it comes to a road trip, I plan my food so far in advance. I roll hard with a cooler. I don’t mess around. I want to avoid ending up eating fast food. I try to stay away from that.”
At the same time, he endorsed McDonald’s in a ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ song:
Similarly, while Britney Spears has commented that “I’m really into raw food — sushi, basically…any kind of fruit,” on one hand, on the other she endorses Pepsi Regular and McDonald’s.
The Influence of Celebrity
Various researchers in the study have commented on the influence that these celebrity endorsements have on the youth.
“These celebrity endorsement deals are often worth millions of dollars each, suggesting companies find them critical for promoting products,” said lead study author Marie Bragg, a faculty member at the NYU College of Global Public Health. “Food advertising leads to overeating, and the food industry spends $1.8 billion per year marketing to youth alone.”
“The popularity of music celebrities among adolescents makes them uniquely poised to serve as positive role models,” study co-author Alysa N. Miller added. “Celebrities should be aware that their endorsements could exacerbate society’s struggle with obesity, and they should endorse healthy products instead.”
What’s your take on celebrity endorsements when it comes to fast and junk food?