Are there drastic differences in health articles found in African-American magazines? Yes, says a new report from the University of Iowa. By analyzing the health content in three major African American women’s publications—Essence, Ebony and Jet—with three mainstream titles—Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Garden and Ladies Home Journal—researchers found that although all six magazines suggested many similar weight-loss strategies, the mainstream glossies were twice as likely to suggest the following evidence-based strategies: incorporating more whole grains and proteins, portion control and eating low-fat foods. African-American glossies were more likely to suggest relying on religious faith and fad diets such as the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet.

They also noted that although three fourths of black women are believed to be overweight or obese, the number of weight-loss stories did not increase in Essence, Ebony or Jet from 2000-2004. Yet both magazine groups were criticized for focusing too much on individual responsibility (more than 83 percent of content) rather than examining environmental or economic factors that make weight loss difficult (7 percent). 

The study’s coauthor Stacy Campo stated, “Both genres are highly guilty of overreliance on individual strategies. We blame individuals too much for circumstances that are not entirely within their control. We know people living in unsafe neighborhoods are much less likely to exercise. And fast food is cheap compared to fresh fruit and vegetables. To tell a poor person that they made a bad choice because they couldn’t afford the salad fixings raises some ethical concerns.”

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