The study conducted by New York University’s School of Medicine analyzed the Nielsen ratings from numerous televised sports programs to figure out what programs were watched the most by youth (ages 2 to 17).
Researchers found that three-quarters of the food and beverage sponsors of the 10 most popular programs did not meet minimum nutritional requirements by the Nutritional Profile Model (NPM), which is a way of measuring the healthiness of food.
Some of the most common sponsors were companies selling energy drinks, chips, and sugary cereals.
The NFL was by far the worst of the 10 groups, with the most unhealthy sponsors AND the largest number of viewers watching the unhealthy content.
Another troubling one: Little League Baseball. This one was particularly concerning to researchers due to its focus on children and youth.
"The U.S. is in the throes of a child and adolescent obesity epidemic, and these findings suggest that sports organizations and many of their sponsors are contributing, directly and indirectly, to it," said Dr. Marie Bragg - the study's lead investigator. "Sports organizations need to develop more health-conscious marketing strategies that are aligned with recommendations from national medical associations."
Those strategies would involve the higher ups in national sports leagues pursuing partnerships with companies that promote healthier food and drinks. Otherwise, watching sports on TV will become a health risk, according to Dr. Bragg.
"Unhealthy food and beverage promotion through organized sports is pervasive," she added. "These organizations must put forth a better effort to protect their youngest and most impressionable fans."