A new study says Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s food and drink endorsements have had a more negative effect on Americans’ health than those of any other athlete.
In a study that will appear in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity attempted to quantify the health effects of advertisements that feature prominent athletes and promote unhealthy food and drinks.
Hoping to call attention to the influence these advertisements might have on children who look up to their favourite athletes, the Rudd Center ranked 100 of the most powerful professional athletes based on the number of food products they endorsed and the nutritional values of the products they advertised.
Manning, who was followed on the list by Serena Williams and LeBron James, landed atop the rankings through his endorsement of products like Oreos and Gatorade that are high in energy and sugar, but low in nutrition.
For the study, the Rudd Center looked at the product endorsements of the 100 athletes included in Businessweek’s 2010 Power 100 report, which ranked athletes based on their endorsement value and how prominent they were in their respective sports.
The researchers then determined the nutritional values of the foods they endorsed based on total calories and the number of healthy and unhealthy ingredients each food contained. For beverages, the researchers measured the percentage of calories that came from added sugar.
The study found that of the 512 brands endorsed by the 100 athletes, food and beverages represented the second largest category (23.8%) after sporting goods and apparel (28.3%). Unfortunately, researchers found that 79% of the food products advertised were energy-dense and nutrient-poor, and 93% of the beverages only had calories that came from sugar.
Using Nielsen data, the study found that children aged 12-17 saw more advertisements for athlete-endorsed food and drink products than any other age group.
“The promotion of energy dense, nutrient-poor products by some of the world’s most physically fit and well-known athletes is an ironic combination that sends mixed messages about diet and health,” Marie Bragg, the study’s lead author, said in a statement.