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Health Promotion Perspectives
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Submitted: 12 Jun 2015
Accepted: 08 Apr 2016
First published online: 11 Jun 2016

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Health Promot Perspect. 2016;6(2):80-84 doi: 10.15171/hpp.2016.14
PMID:27386422        PMCID:PMC4932226

An analysis of weight loss articles and advertisements inmainstream women’s health and fitness magazines

Original Article

Danna Ethan 1 * , Corey H. Basch 2, Grace Clarke Hillyer 3, Alyssa Berdnik 2, Mary Huynh 1

1 Department of Health Sciences, Lehman College, the City University of New York, New York, USA
2 Department of Public Health, William Paterson University, New Jersey, USA
3 Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, USA


Background: Magazines are a commonly used source for health and fitness information. Little is known about the nature and extent of weight loss strategies and products presented in mainstream women’s health and fitness magazines.

Methods: This preliminary cross-sectional study evaluated the prevalence of articles and advertisements featuring weight loss content and products in mainstream US-based health and fitness magazines, as well as assessed weight loss themes presented. Thirty-one US health and fitness-focused magazine issues were coded. Prevalence of, product type, and themes related to weight loss in articles and advertisements were assessed.

Results: Among the 31 issues of the five US-based women’s magazines examined, we identified 39 articles (4.8% [95% CI = 3.3% to 5.5%] of 819 articles) related to weight loss with 14 identified weight loss topics. The most prevalent article topics covered were exercising/workouts(32.0% [95% CI = 28.8% to 33.6%]) followed by dieting (18.6% [95% CI = 15.9% to 19.9%]).The most common product advertised was weight loss pills (46.0% [95% CI = 42.6% to 47.7%]).Fat burners were also frequently advertised (14.9% [95% CI = 12.5% to 16.1%]) followed by hunger reduction strategies (10.3% [95% CI = 8.2% to 11.3%]) and fat blockers (6.9% [95% CI= 5.2% to 7.8%]).

Conclusion: Articles presented information about exercise and dieting whereas advertisements supported potentially harmful health beliefs and behaviors. As a well-utilized American media format, health and fitness-focused magazines have an opportunity to communicate frequent,accurate messaging about healthy weight reduction and limit advertisements that may include misleading claims.

Citation: Ethan D, Basch CH, Hillyer GC, Berdnik A, Huynh M. An analysis of weight loss articles and advertisements in mainstream women’s health and fitness magazines. Health Promot Perspect. 2016;6(2):80-84. doi: 10.15171/hpp.2016.14.

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Articles by Ethan D
Articles by Basch CH
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