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Study Shows that African American Women Often Receive Bad Weight Loss Advice

A recent study conducted at the University of Iowa shows that most magazines catering to African American women provide inadequate weight loss information. According to the study, the magazines often encourage fad diets and faith based willpower. But most general women’s magazines focus on long-term weight loss strategies.

Three-quarters of African American women are either slightly overweight or obese. Weight is a serious problem for many Americans, and African American women seem to be affected the most. And they aren’t getting the correct weight loss information from the magazines they read.

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The magazines used in the study often encourage African American women to rely on their faith and prayer to aid in their weight loss. Researchers aren’t saying that’s bad, but that proven long-term weight loss strategies are also necessary.

The study compared three popular African American women’s magazines to three popular general women’s magazines. The three African American women’s magazines in the study were: Jet, Essence, and Ebony. The general women’s magazines in the study were: Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, and Good Housekeeping.

Researchers studied more than 400 fitness and health articles published by the magazines between the years of 1984 to 2004. While many of the magazines gave similar weight loss advice, the general magazines were more likely to suggest eating smaller portions and low fat food. The mainstream magazines also stressed the importance of eating whole grains and proteins.

In contrast, the African American women’s magazines usually made no mention of eating a low fat diet or smaller portions. They also suggested the importance of relying on God or faith to lose weight. But the mainstream magazines kept religious belief out of their articles. Things such as exercise and nutrition were highly stressed.

Even more disturbing is the fact that 15 percent of the articles in the African American women’s magazines promoted diets that provide short term weight loss. Only 5 percent of the articles in the general women’s magazines encouraged short term weight loss. For the purposes of this study, diets such as The Atkins Diet, the Dick Gregory Bahamian Diet, and the Atkins Diet were considered short term diets.

Researchers say the study shows a need for more public health awareness in the African American community. The African American women’s magazines and other media need to give more information about obesity, healthy weight loss, and general health issues.

Another study published in the Howard Journal of Communication focused on the same six magazines. The study found that the food and beverage ads in African American women’s magazines heavily outnumbered fitness and nutrition articles. And all of the food ads were for foods high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Researchers in both studies say that all of the magazines place too much emphasis on the individual for weight loss. There’s basically no mention of how environmental and economic factors affect weight loss. For instance, poor people are more likely to buy the cheapest food they can find, which is usually unhealthy fast food. They’re also less likely to own exercise equipment or have a gym membership. And people who live in bad neighborhoods are less likely to go out to exercise.

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