Consumers' and Homemaking Magazines Top-Ranked in Survey of Nutrition Coverage

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In its ninth survey of nutrition coverage by popular magazines, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) found that magazines directed towards homemaking and consumer interests once again provided the most reliable information. The survey, which covered magazines published in 2000, 2001, and 2002, ranked 16 of 20 magazines as "good" sources of nutrition information, two magazines were rated "fair," and two earned a rating of "poor."

Four ACSH judges, experts in nutrition and/or food science, rated 10 randomly selected articles from each of the 20 popular magazines on the basis of: 1) provision of factual information, 2) objective presentation of information, and 3) presentation of sound nutritional recommendations. In a change from prior surveys, none of the magazines earned a rating of "excellent," although several came close:

  • Three magazines, Cooking Light, Parents, and Ladies' Home Journal, had scores just below the "excellent" category.
  • Thirteen others, Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Consumer Reports, Reader's Digest, Redbook, Woman's Day, Glamour, Self, Health, Runner's World, Prevention, Shape, and Fitness all earned lower scores in the "good" range.
  • Cosmopolitan and Men's Health were rated as "fair" sources of nutrition information.
  • Men's Fitness and Muscle and Fitness earned only a "poor" evaluation.

As a group, the "home" category of magazines received the highest score at 87 percent, while the "consumer"-focused group came in a close second with a score of 86 percent. As in previous surveys, the "health"-focused group did not fare particularly well. That group's score was only 78 percent; it was held down by the low scores of some of the magazines directed towards men.

Of the 19 magazines that had been included in the previous survey, eight either maintained or increased their scores, while eleven decreased their ranking. The differences were slight in most cases, although Prevention increased by 10 percent, and Ladies' Home Journal score jumped by 9 percent.

Survey judges thought that most of the magazines' nutrition reporting was quite good. Sometimes, though, a high-quality article lost points because it didn't help the reader interpret information adequately. Survey judge Dr. Irene Berman-Levine noted that "just because one study shows something, it does not mean it is truth or can be applied to all situations." Dr. Ruth Kava, ACSH nutrition director added, "Even magazines that scored well overall had some articles of questionable quality. Readers shouldn't make large dietary changes based on only one magazine article."