Food, nutrition and slimming messages in British women's magazines, 1950–1998

Authors

  • 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

      E-mail: m.e.barker@sheffield.ac.uk

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  • K. McNeir,

    1. Human Nutrition Unit, Department of Oncology, School of Medicine, University of Sheffield, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK
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  • S. Sameer,

    1. Human Nutrition Unit, Department of Oncology, School of Medicine, University of Sheffield, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK
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  • J. Russell

    1. Corporate Information and Computing Service, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
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Abstract

Background

The present study examined temporality in the representation of food in two popular British women's magazines between 1950 and 1998.

Methods

A quantitative content analysis of (i) prevalence of cooking, slimming, nutrition advice in articles; (ii) prevalence of food advertising by food type; and (iii) likelihood of various nutrition and consumer messages in advertising was performed on a sample comprising 200 magazines, with 3045 advertisements and 88 articles.

Results

The prevalence of food advertisements decreased (P < 0.001), whereas food articles increased, across decades (P < 0.001). Cooking tips dominated 1950s food writing (100%), contrasting with miniscule coverage in the 1990s (5%). Slimming advice was not represented in 1950s articles and was most common in 1970s articles (55% of articles). Food advertising for all food types decreased in the 1990s decade. There were greater bread and cereals (P < 0.001), protein foods (P = 0.001) and dairy (P < 0.001) advertising in later decades; advertising for sugar- and fat-rich foods (P < 0.001), condiments and baking ingredients (P < 0.001) and beverages (P < 0.001) was greater in earlier decades. Odds of advertising claims for energy, easy digestion, nourishment, general health, economy, good for family (all P < 0.01), pleased others (P = 0.017) and convenience (P = 0.031) were greater in the 1950s and decreased thereafter. Claims around taste and quality were highest in the 1960s (all P < 0.01). Mineral, additive-free, and protein claims were most likely to be invoked in 1970s advertising (all P < 0.01). Low-fat, low-calorie and fibre claims peaked in the 1980s (all P < 0.01), whereas the odds of specific fat claims was greatest in the 1990s (P = 0.015).

Conclusions

Representation of food resonated with prevailing food culture but was not always congruent with nutrition policy.

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