Nutrition claims in British women's magazines from 1940 to 1955


  • M. E. Barker,

    Corresponding author
    1. Human Nutrition Unit, Department of Oncology, School of Medicine, University of Sheffield, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK
    • Correspondence

      M. Barker, Department of Oncology, University of Sheffield, The Medical School, Beech Hill Road, Sheffield S10 2RX, UK.

      Tel.: +44 (0)114 271 3782

      Fax: +44 (0) 114 271 3314


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  • J. D. Burridge

    1. School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK
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The present study examined dietary messages conveyed in articles and advertising in two popular British women's magazines, Woman and Home and Woman's Own, between 1940 and 1954.


A qualitative analysis of written content was performed, focusing on regularities evident in content, and addressing the construction of the role of women in relation to food provision, as well as assertions for nutritional health. The setting comprised a desk-based study. The study sample encompassed 37 magazines, and yielded a corpus of 569 articles concerned with food or dietary supplements, of which 80.1% were advertisements.


Ministry of Food dietary advice featured prominently up to 1945 and advocated food consumption according to a simple nutrient classification. Advertising and article content also used this classification; advocating consumption of food and supplements on the grounds of energy, growth and protection of health was customary. Providing food to meet nutritional needs was depicted as fundamental to women's war effort and their role as dutiful housewives. Advertising in 1950s magazines also focused on nutritional claims, with a particular emphasis on energy provision.


These claims reflected the prevailing food policy and scientific understanding of nutritional health. This analysis of food messages in women's magazines provides lessons for contemporary nutrition policy.