An Open Letter To Beyoncé: Be Part Of The Solution, Not The Problem
Your work has entertained and inspired a generation of fans. Unfortunately, many of them are or will become casualties of America's biggest public health crisis. I'm not talking about violent crime, HIV, or hunger. I'm talking about obesity and type-2 diabetes, killers of far more people than those three plagues combined.
The main cause of this health crisis is the overconsumption of junk food and sugary drinks produced by the likes of PepsiCo, the company that recently signed you to a $50 million product-endorsement deal.
Yes, that's a lot of money, and a shrewd investment by a company that generates $66.5 billion a year in revenues mostly by selling Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Lay's and Ruffles potato chips, Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos, Tostitos, and other snack foods and drinks. But your deal is harmful for the very reason it was struck: your ability to influence millions of impressionable fans, who now have another voice telling them to overload their bodies with added sugar and other empty calories.
Junk calories aren't solely to blame, but they're a major reason why two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese, and one-third has either type-2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. In 2000, 9 percent of U.S. adolescents had diabetes or pre-diabetes. Now it's 23 percent. The future looks even bleaker. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that by 2050, as many as one in three U.S. adults will have full-on diabetes.
There's a direct connection between the can of soda bearing your likeness and all of this metabolic misery. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have found that 40 grams of carbs, give or take a few, is the maximum number most bodies can handle per feeding. The remainder goes straight to the belly of men and the hips of women. One 12-ounce can of Pepsi contains 41 grams of simple sugars, the worst kind of carbs.
So the fries, chips, hamburger, dessert, a second soft drink, or whatever else gets washed down with that Pepsi all lead to weight gain.
When soda drinkers pass that carb threshold habitually, many of them develop "insulin resistance," meaning the hormone that ushers glucose from the bloodstream into cells no longer functions properly. As people become more insulin-resistant, it takes fewer carbs to trigger this process. The resulting buildup of excess sugar in the blood is symptomatic of type-2 diabetes. In the long term, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, vision loss, amputations, and other health catastrophes—and that "long term" isn't nearly as long as most people think.
Those in our society who are the most insulin-resistant—and hence the first to turn diabetic from drinking lots of Pepsi—are African-American women like you. Half of them born after 2000 will eventually develop diabetes. Even when they're not overweight, these women are much more likely than non-African American women to be insulin-resistant. In my book Sugar Nation, I point out that even an African-American woman with a healthy body weight still has a 50-50 shot at becoming insulin-resistant. This single demographic factor skyrockets the risk for type-2 diabetes.
Tragically, those women whose weight remains in check are the outliers. Eighty percent of African-American women are overweight as a result of this process, and 54 percent of them are categorized as obese, which makes their problems even more difficult to address. The last thing these women need is slick ads with their idol urging them to swill more Pepsi and eat more Cheetos.
O'Connell is Bodybuilding.com's editor-in-chief. He was formerly executive writer at Men's Health and EIC at Muscle & Fitness. He wrote Sugar Nation and cowrote Formula 50, with 50 Cent, among other books.
Media Credits ///
Most recently, his work has been published in the magazine supplements of USA Today, Times of London, and Australian Weekender, as well as on the website of New York Daily News.
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My hope is that public figures like you will come to view the endorsement of junk food makers with the same disdain now given cigarette companies. There is plenty of precedent for exerting this type of positive influence. First Lady Michelle Obama has helped jumpstart the national dialog about childhood obesity with her Let's Move! initiative. The mayor of your hometown, New York City, went a step further, yanking Pepsi and other sodas from schools and banning it in sizes larger than 16 ounces at restaurants and concession stands throughout the city. In your industry, I have been privileged to collaborate with the recording artists LL Cool J and 50 Cent on their fitness books. Exercise has a remarkable capacity to combat insulin resistance, and these artists also implore readers to stop drinking non-diet soda.
Ending your endorsement deal with PepsiCo would help to reinforce that drinks like Pepsi have no place in the fridges of the millions of people worldwide who are struggling against obesity. I know, $50 million is a lot of money to forego, even for a wealthy superstar. But compare it with things like toes, a foot, a leg, functioning kidneys, a viable liver, a healthy heart, or a human life. To paraphrase one of your greatest hits, these are the things that are truly irreplaceable.
What Do You Think?
Should celebrities limit their endorsement deals to promote a fit lifestyle and leave behind a healthy legacy? Let us know in the comments below.
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I feel like this was a redemption article from that terrible 50 cent article this weekend.. great read. Also I agree that clebs should be promoting a healthy alternative to life rather then a unhealthy lifestyle but, with that being said they shouldn't be using it as a way to promote there own products!
It's all a "MONEY" thing. So what if she signed a deal. She's not overweight and there is no one holding a gun to any one's head making them drink it. I don't drink soda because I know what it does to my body. I haven't had a soda in over 15 years (my choice). If you don't like it, don't drink it. I'll bet you the front runners of the ASPCA aren't vegetarians...
Most Tweens and teenagers aren't going to think that way. Kids are impressionable and look to celebrities like Beyonce for what's cool and trendy. It's really the demographic they go for because they know an adult isn't going to start drinking Pepsi just because Beyonces face is on the can.
Sorry swruffin57 & shanbbg3 but thats to easy. You are intelligent and smart and maybe your parents gave you the right education to not adapt every stupid thing that people even celebs do.
Unfortunately you are a big exception!
Kids are impressionable but they dont live alone, they have parents to help moderate and to help inform them that too much "pepsi" or anything else is not good for them. Thats like saying video games are the cause of all the violence in america....
And a lot of adults are very influenced by celeb life style, why do you think there are celebrity magazines adults can subscribe too and shows like Extra or Entertainment Tonight. Adults eat that mess up just as much as kids do.
This is amazing! Celebrities have so much power when it comes to influencing people, and they should be using their influence to help solve this horrible obesity problem the US is facing.
the only way to solve the obesity problem is if people make up their own minds to do it.... they are obviously comfortable being at the weight they are at or else they would change. Look at all the transformation stories here, they changed because they wanted too. If we are going to slam celebs for running in commercials with pepsi, why dont we slam the pizza delivery guy who brings food right to your house, and we TIP THAT GUY!!! LOL!!! There are a million other problems that the US could be solving rather than worrying about what americans are eating for dinner... just saying :)
When you say people, you mean "Adults." I am 21 years old, and was raised on Soda and junk food, because it was cheap and easy. I am finally taking responsibility for my health and working towards being healthy, but the bad habits that were literally force fed to me as a toddler, child and teen were extremely hard to break, the worst being giving up soda. I am positive that my situation is not a minority. You have to realize that not everyone's parents were educated on proper nutrition or exercise, and so they do not have anything to teach their kids. I went to public school, and was fed disgusting food for lunches until I started bringing my own and spent maybe one week out of 12 grades learning what calories were. Look at a kindergarten class on a field trip and see how many of those kids have a "Lunchables" because their parents are uninformed and think it's a healthy, nutritious meal.
I'd have to agree with Bathos. I have friends who feed their kids McD's all the time because it's fast and cheap. My wife and I don't do that. Our daughter didn't get her first taste of TV or fast food until she was 18 months. If we get caught unprepared then we get something to eat; but we try to stick to a local Subway to feed the family.
I think some of this has to do with both parents having to work to make any kind of income. There aren't enough good paying jobs for only one parent to work; so there's fewer meals being prepared at home.
When I say "people" I do mean everybody. I grew up on dr.pepper and whoppers when I was a kid like everybody on this site I am sure. I also bought lunches at school. Most schools have programs to make sure kids get proper nutrition, especially low income families. Kids are informed just as much as adults are when it comes to good nutrition at school. Thats where it all starts! They teach that stuff at PE, and as much physical activity that goes on at school with sports and other outside activities its crazy that kids are overweight these days. Playgrounds, dodgeball, soccer, flag football? Schools make physical activity part of your day! Adults and kids have just gotten lazy! They would rather be at home playing halo or thumbing through their iPhone. I know how it is when you get a new game and you veg out for a week and consume nothing but code red mountain dew and cheetos until you beat that thing on every difficulty! We have all done it, but some people build their life around it and thats all they wanna do! I work in IT so I see it everyday, lol.
To say that your parents were not "educated" on nutrition I find that hard to believe? Health and nutrition have been around forever, it is not rocket science to understand that eating junk food and loading up on soda is not healthy? Laziness and bad habits from the parents on a child at an early age is horrible, no child deserves that, but eventually that child starts to think on their own and they need to become their own individual. Cant blame mom and dad forever for why your life is the way it is. Your a good example, your 21, your young, and your making a change, so right on. Which is exactly what my argument was. People have to make the change for themselves.
Just because its fast and cheap? Thats not an excuse? It doesnt take an hour to make your kids a decent meal at home? Google healthy 20 min meals and you will see a ton of websites that offer pretty good recipes. It stinks to have to come home and cook, but thats your job as a parent? Why stuff your kids with junk that you know is not good for them? Sorry dude, I am a father of two kids and was a single dad for a few years, and I never ran to mcdonalds for anything... so no sympathy here...
Never thought this would've happened. I've strayed from as much junk food as i can now. The only things i ever let slide are Nutella and Subway, but those are only for occasion.
I want to look good and feel good. Pepsi holds no protein, no wicked workout stimulants, is absorbed to quick and doesn't really taste that good to me.
If Beyonc� jumped into a fitness brand i'd be all for it!
@Debragail127 Took exactly what I was going to say. Though not hugely into her music myself, I had a huge appreciation for what she was doing to combat childhood obesity. At this point, she's no better than any other money grubbing artist looking to line their pockets. .
It is a fact that everyone has a choice of beverage but kids want what their idols promote. All about the money for celebs. Michael Jordon would have done a commercial for footballs if the price was right.