Magazines Linked to Unhealthy Dieting
Teen Girls Who Often Read About Dieting More Apt to Use Risky Weight Loss Tactics
Jan. 2, 2007 -- Teen girls who often read magazine articles about dieting
loss appear to be three times as likely to engage in extreme dieting
practices, such as vomiting and using laxatives.
So say University of Minnesota experts, including Patricia van den Berg,
Their study doesn't prove the magazines caused teen girls to go on unhealthy
diets or use extreme measures to control their weight.
But parents might want to limit their teenaged daughters' exposure to
magazines that prize thinness, and teens should put media images in
perspective, van den Berg's team says.
The study appears in Pediatrics' January edition.
Researchers looked at 2,516 Minnesota teens, divided roughly equally by sex.
The teens were studied for five years, starting when they were about 13-15
At the study's start, the teens completed surveys about dieting, body image,
and self-esteem. The survey also included this question: "How often do you
read magazine articles in which dieting or weight loss [is] discussed?"
Forty-four percent of the girls reported reading such articles frequently,
compared with 14% of the boys.
The researchers also measured the teens' height and weight.
Five years later, the teens completed a follow-up survey.
The girls who had most often read magazine articles about dieting and weight
loss five years earlier were the most likely to report unhealthy or extreme
dieting practices in the follow-up survey.
These girls were twice as likely to engage in unhealthy weight-control
behaviors -- including fasting, skipping meals, and smoking more cigarettes --
as girls who never read such articles.
Extreme weight-control behaviors -- including vomiting and using laxatives
-- were three times as common in the girls who reported frequently reading
magazine articles about dieting and weight loss, compared with those who never
read such articles.
No such patterns were seen in boys.
"Frequent reading of magazine articles about dieting/weight loss
strongly predicted unhealthy weight-control behaviors in adolescent girls, but
not boys, 5 years later," the researchers write.
The study doesn't say which magazines the teens read, or whether the weight
loss articles promoted healthy or unhealthy dieting.
Future studies should include other forms of media, including TV, say the