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Lawrenceville, NJ (Dr Simone) – According to a new study published in Pediatrics, the majority of food and beverage products endorsed in 2010 by professional athletes like LeBron James, Peyton Manning and Serena Williams are calorie-dense, nutrient-poor, or filled with additive sugar. And about 93% of athlete endorsed drinks had all of their calories from additive sugar.

The authors of the study point out that LeBron James and Peyton Manning endorsed some of the most unhealthy products. For instance, James holds multi-million dollar contracts with McDonald’s and Bubblicious gum. Manning is an even worse offender, sponsoring sugary drinks like Gatorade, fatty snacks like Oreo, and the pizza chain Papa John’s.

Lead study author Marie Bragg of Yale University said, “Professional athletes wouldn’t endorse tobacco today because it would be a liability for them. The striking irony here is that you have some of the world’s most physically fit athletes promoting really unhealthy foods.”

Children who watch professional sports receive the wrong message when it comes to nutrition and physical health. In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report finding that marketing junk food to kids has been “disastrously effective” at fueling the global obesity epidemic. About 80% of U.S. teens risk developing heart disease because of diets that are too high in sugar, salt, and fat.

But the massive amount of money associated with fast and junk food sponsorship impedes efforts to get athletes to endorse healthier products. McDonald’s and Coca Cola were rumored to have paid the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as much as $100 million for marketing and sponsorship rights during the 2012 London Olympics.

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(c) 2017 Charles B. Simone, M.MS., M.D.