We’re constantly being manipulated by a number of things. Cable news channels get us worked up about trumped-up threats, whether they actually pose much of a problem for most of us or not, for example. Our Facebook feeds and social media channels fill our screens with advertisements and product suggestions. And, as it turns out, even our love for junk food — everything from Taco Bell to Oreos — is being manipulated by our love for celebrities.
That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. According to the study, celebrity endorsements of junk food appear to play an important role in growing rates of child obesity — which, as we know, are continuing to climb unabated. “Food and beverage marketing has been associated with childhood obesity,” the study says. “We quantified the number and type of food or beverage brands promoted by music celebrities, assessed the nutritional quality of the products, and examined Teen Choice Award data to assess the celebrities’ popularity among adolescents.”
The researchers eventually concluded that every food or beverage that was sponsored by celebrities popular with youth demographics during the past few years was unhealthy. They’re all hawking junk food.
As for how the researchers went about piecing it all together, the study says “data on celebrity endorsements were gathered from official company Web sites, YouTube commercials, an advertising database, and media reports. Nutritional quality of foods was assessed according to the Nutrient Profile Index, whereas nonalcoholic beverages were evaluated based on calories from added sugar. Teen Choice Award nominations were used to measure the celebrities’ popularity among adolescents.”
“Rock stars hawking Diet Cokes”
Specifically, the study names singers like Justin Timberlake, Pitbull, and Beyonce, all of whom signed large endorsement contracts with soda companies. Among the demographics linked to each singer (Pitbull is popular with Latinos, for example), sales numbers did see a boost. But the real focus of the research was on the slice of the population that is under 12 years old, where junk food companies have been targeting most of their advertising budgets in recent years.
Basically, the results tell us that junk food companies are still swaying the opinions of the youth with targeted and powerful ad campaigns and that they’re using popular celebrities and singers to do it. This isn’t anything new, necessarily. But for parents, can be something that’s important to keep in mind — as it can be for many adults.
As the late comic Bill Hicks once said, “Rock stars hawking Diet Cokes — are demons set loose on the Earth to lower the standards for the perfect & holy children of God.” This study seems to back up this philosophy.
But again, celebrity endorsements are certainly nothing new, and any American is more or less used to seeing famous faces of singers and movie stars trying to sell them certain products. We’re getting it through our social media channels and even our video games. But adults can think critically about what they’re seeing; it’s with the children where we see a problem.
Fight your junk food addiction
While there’s not a whole lot you can do to avoid advertising or junk food, you can do your best to make wise decisions regarding your diet — and to help teach your kids to develop healthy eating habits as well. It all starts with each individual making wise, informed, and disciplined decisions about what they’re going to eat. Though you may be tempted to grab a donut, or go for a 500-calorie muffin in the morning, for example, you’re going to be much better off having a bowl of oatmeal, or fresh fruit.
It’s these seemingly small, but very impactful decisions, that are going to make all the difference over the long-run. When it comes to junk foods, we know that sugary beverages alone can cause all kinds of health issues, and have been tied to huge numbers of deaths.
It’s certainly not easy. But studies like the one we’ve discussed are proof that advertising companies aren’t changing up their strategies. They evidently still work, and many people are still willing to go out and buy whatever it is that their idols tell them to buy. But if you can see through the strategy, and make better decisions regarding your diet, you’ll end up happier and healthier — and that’s what Justin Timberlake would really want. Don’t you think?