Peyton Manning, LeBron James, and Serena Williams have been identified as the worst culprits among athletes for marketing unhealthy food, following the publication of a study in the journal Pediatrics.

The trio are considered three of the most prominent sports stars in America and, given their respective high-profile, make millions of dollars each year from endorsements with companies and products.

But, despite their physical fitness, Manning, James and Williams are being accused of promoting unhealthy lifestyles to the people who idolise them, as deals with the likes of McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Papa John's are included among their respective portfolios.

"When taking into account the nutrient quality of the products endorsed and the amount of advertising for each product, Peyton Manning, LeBron James, and Serena Williams are the highest contributors to the marketing of unhealthy foods," reads an extract from the study.

"Food and beverage brands were the second- largest category of endorsements behind sporting goods, and most of these food and beverage brand endorsements were for sports beverages, soft drinks, and fast-food companies."

This, it is claimed, represents a significant problem with child obesity now reaching epidemic levels, and adolescents aged 12 to 17 seeing the more TV commercials for food than any other age group.

Food/beverage brand endorsements are the second most popular among athletes, behind sporting goods/apparel, with the categories representing 23.8 percent and 28.3 percent among the sample of the study.

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