Nutrition Accuracy in Popular Magazines (January 2000-December 2002)

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Magazines are second only to television as an important source of nutrition information for the American public, according to a national survey conducted in 2002 by the American Dietetic Association.1 In that survey, 58% of respondents identified magazines as one of their primary sources of information about nutrition a substantial increase from the 50% who mentioned magazines in a similar survey conducted two years earlier.How good is the nutrition information presented in popular magazines? To answer that question, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) has been tracking nutrition reporting in magazines for 20 years. Over that period as a whole, ACSH has found that the quality of the reporting has improved, reflecting most magazines' growing commitment to educating their readers. In this, the ninth Nutrition Accuracy in Popular Magazines survey, ACSH found that four-fifths (16 of 20) of the magazines included in the survey were GOOD sources of nutrition information; only one-fifth scored in the FAIR or POOR range. The proportion of FAIR or POOR scores was smaller than in any of the previous ACSH surveys that used the same rating criteria.* Magazines aimed at male readers were especially likely to score in the FAIR or POOR range. One unusual feature of the current survey was that no magazine scored in the EXCELLENT range; this is the first time that this has happened since ACSH adopted its current magazine-rating methodology for the 1990-92 survey.

The results of the current survey indicate the following:

1) Most of today's consumer magazines are providing their readers with scientifically sound articles about nutrition.

2) Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement, even in magazines that have long been known for the high quality of their reporting on nutrition issues.

3) Readers should interpret the recommendations given in magazines aimed at male readers with particular caution.