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A new NYU study published in Pediatrics reveals that the food and drinks celebrity musicians endorse are almost all unhealthy — and are likely contributing to obesity in teenagers.

In the age of social media, more musicians than ever are endorsing food and drinks. The target audience for these products has always been teenagers, and now researchers have investigated how this type of advertising affects the health of those young people.

According to the study, soda and other sugary drinks, fast food, and candy are among the most common products that music celebrities endorse. Carrie Underwood, Shakira, and Justin Timberlake have all endorsed Pepsi, while Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts, and Doritos have all likewise enjoyed celebrity marketing.

Not surprisingly, though nonetheless disturbing, not a single celebrity cited in the study endorsed fruits, vegetables, or whole grains.

In reviewing dozens of celebrity-fronted advertisements released over a 14-year period, the researchers found just one product that could be deemed healthy: pistachios, endorsed by the Korean rapper Psy.

Furthermore, 81 percent of the food items studied here were deemed “nutrient poor.” In fact, soft drinks were the most commonly endorsed food product, while water was only endorsed three times.

“Because of our nation’s childhood and teenage obesity public health crises, it is important to raise awareness about how companies are using celebrities popular with these audiences to market their unhealthy products,” said Dr. Maria Bragg, the author’s lead study and assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone.

Bragg claims that this type of advertising leads to overeating, and that it is targeted at young people: The food industry spends $1.8 billion per year marketing to youth. And according to the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, teens view 5,900 food ads per year.

Constant exposure to these ads — aided by the endorsement of a celebrity — helps fuel the United States’ serious obesity problem: In 2012, over one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.


Learn more about the science behind why we crave junk food. Then, find out the truth behind these organic food myths.

Elisabeth Sherman
Elisabeth Sherman is a writer living in Jersey City, New Jersey.
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