Childhood obesity is a growing concern, with 12.7 million, approximately 17 percent of people ages 2-19, considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A recent study by NYU Langone Medical Center found popular musicians are contributing to the childhood obesity crisis by sponsoring certain unhealthy brands and targeting their ads to kids.
“Everyone, including celebrities, should model good healthy behaviors,” says Dr. Vidhya Viswanathan, a pediatric endocrinologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. “These include making good choices about healthy eating and exercising,”
Pop artists Beyoncé and Taylor Swift advertise Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Justin Timberlake promotes the fast food chain McDonald’s. Will.i.am has endorsed Doritos, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper and Pepsi, and Adam Levine created a song for the two brands he promotes, Coca-Cola and Snapple.
“The popularity of music celebrities among adolescents makes them uniquely poised to serve as positive role models,” said study co-author Alysa N. Miller, research coordinator in the Department of Population Health, in a press release. “Celebrities should be aware that their endorsements could exacerbate society’s struggle with obesity.”
Research has demonstrated that the use of celebrity endorsements in marketing can enhance brand equity and make a product more desirable, according to study authors. It’s estimated that teens view roughly 5,900 ads per year, which influences their opinion on what to consume.
“Families need to be more active and monitor the foods their children eat, as these are two contributors to Type 2 diabetes and the increase of childhood obesity,” says Dr. Viswanathan.
“Celebrities instead should promote healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables instead of chips and pop,” suggested the study authors. They cited Snoop Dogg’s pistachio campaign, “Get Crackin’ With Snoop,” as a good example of a positive celebrity promotion, despite his other questionable endorsements, which include Hot Pockets, Monster Energy and cannabis products.