Are celeb deals mak­ing kids obese?

Celebrity wal­lets are get­ting fat - but so are teens

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE -

Would teenagers in the US be any slim­mer if Katy Perry ate kale and quinoa?

New re­search doesn’t prove a link, but its au­thors think music stars pop­u­lar with teens may be con­tribut­ing to the obe­sity epi­demic by en­dors­ing fatty fast food, snacks and soda.

The study pub­lished in the jour­nal Pe­di­atrics shows that 20 of the hottest teen-music heart­throbs have done TV ads or other pro­mo­tions for prod­ucts nu­tri­tion­ists con­sider un­healthy.

Of 107 food and drink en­dorse­ments in­cluded in the study, few were for nu­tri­tious foods, the re­searchers said. Lead au­thor Marie Bragg, a food pol­icy and obe­sity re­searcher at New York Univer­sity, sin­gled out one “nat­u­ral whole-food prod­uct”. That was South Korean pop star Psy’s “crackin’ gang­nam-style” TV ad for Won­der­ful pis­ta­chios, shown dur­ing the Su­per Bowl in 2013.

About 80 per cent of celebrity-en­dorsed food ad­verts were high-calo­rie prod­ucts in­clud­ing crisps and choco­late, or fast-food restau­rants in­clud­ing McDon­ald’s and Chili’s. Most of the bev­er­age ads were for sug­ary soda drinks.

The list in­cludes Perry en­dorse­ments for Pepsi and Popchips; Justin Tim­ber­lake ads or pro­mo­tions for Chili’s, McDon­ald’s and Pepsi; and will.i.am ads or cam­paigns linked with Co­caCola, Dori­tos, Dr. Pep­per and Pepsi.

Ad­verts can in­flu­ence be­hav­iour, and the re­searchers say the re­sults have im­por­tant im­pli­ca­tions, given the United States’ high obe­sity rates. Govern­ment sta­tis­tics show that about 20 per cent of US teenagers are obese and even more are over­weight.

“Celebri­ties should lever­age their in­flu­ence to pro­mote more health­ful mes­sages,” the re­searchers said.

They se­lected music per­form­ers who have ap­peared on Teen Choice Award shows and who had hits on the Bill­board Hot 100 Charts in 2013 and 2014. They in­cluded ad­verts from 2000 to 2014.

They cited pre­vi­ous stud­ies link­ing food and drink mar­ket­ing with ex­cess eat­ing and child­hood obe­sity. Bragg noted a 2013 study from Aus­tralia that found sports celebrity en­dorse­ments in­flu­enced 11-year-old boys to buy fast food.

Bragg said it would be un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect teens to only eat healthy foods, or to ask celebri­ties to only en­dorse those prod­ucts. She said “mod­er­a­tion” and “a bet­ter bal­ance” of ad­verts would be ideal.

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