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02 October 2008

SA mags get it wrong

Up to 30% of nutrition and weight-related articles and snippets that appear in South African magazines contain information that’s questionable or incorrect, a new study finds.

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Up to 30% of nutrition and weight-related articles and snippets that appear in South African magazines contain information that’s questionable or incorrect.

That’s according to results of a University of Cape Town study presented at the 2008 Nutrition Congress in Pretoria on Monday.

The study looked at a total of 81 editions of Cosmopolitan, You, Men’s Health, Bona, Seventeen, True Love and Your Family published over a period of 12 months. No specific magazines were targeted and titles were purely selected on the grounds of high circulation. The researchers assessed 57 general-nutrition and 41 weight-management articles, as well as 163 general-nutrition and 58 weight-management-related snippets.

According to Dr Marjanne Senekal, who presented the findings, between 64% and 81% of information in articles and snippets was judged to be factually correct, 14% to 30% questionable and 2% to 6% incorrect.

“Violation of core nutrition principles and recommendations with potentially harmful effects occurred frequently, especially in articles,” Senekal said. Core nutrition principles were violated 24 times in 40 of the general-nutrition articles, and 18 out of 28 times in the weight-management articles.

She further noted that dieticians were rarely mentioned as a source of information. Only 20% of general-nutrition articles cited these nutrition experts, whereas 28% of weight-management articles mentioned dieticians as source of information.

Senekal emphasised the importance of good-quality health reporting, as consumers use magazines as one of their primary sources of health information (television and personal physicians are other key sources).

The researchers are concerned about health-related content in the local media as South Africa has seen an increase in nutrition-related diseases in recent years. Incorrect messages contribute to this problem.

(Carine van Rooyen, Health24, September 2008)

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