Study: Top athletes endorsing unhealthy foods

A new study finds a majority of the food and beverages being endorsed by high-profile athletes are for sports drinks, soft drinks, and fast food.

"So, we're spending a lot of our time educating kids on the importance of drinking health beverages and eating healthy and when high-profile athletes are endorsing things that may not be as healthy- it is a mixed message for the kids," said Laura Jeffers a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic.

Yale University researchers looked at 100 professional athletes, the products they endorse, and how often kids are exposed to their ads. The athletes were selected on the basis of "Bloomberg Business Week's 2010 Power 100" report.

Results show nearly 80 percent of the food products in athlete-endorsed advertisements were energy-dense and nutrient-poor, while 93 percent of the athlete-endorsed advertised beverages got 100 percent of their calories from added sugar.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Lebron James of the NBA's Miami Heat endorsed the most energy-dense, nutrient-poor products in 2010. Researchers say kids between the ages of 12 and 17 saw the most athlete-endorsed food and beverage brand commercials.

Researchers are lead to think this may send mixed-messages to kids and that athletes should be aware of the health value of the products they endorse.

"I think it's important for kids to realize that to be able to perform at your best you have to eat a healthy diet, so there are sports players that may eat pizza or they may drink pop, but it's on occasion and in order for them to perform at that level they have to eat healthy." Jeffers said.

Complete findings for this study are available online in the journal "Pediatrics."

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