Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Dieting Articles linked to Teen Health Risks

A study done by the University of Minnesota has managed to link dieting articles and advice in glossy magazines to eating disorders in teens and young women, the AP reports (via MSN). According to the article, "Girls in middle school who read dieting articles were twice as likely five years later to try to lose weight by fasting or smoking cigarettes, compared to girls who never read such articles." Additionally, vomiting and the use of laxatives increased as much as three times within this group as well.

It's no secret that airbrushed photos and ridiculously tiny models often appear within the pages of these 'zines. The images are definitely hazardous to a girl's self-esteem, and create an unrealistic standard for body image when growing up. However, this is the first time that the "health" articles have also been linked to eating disorders and teen health problems.

Magazines like Seventeen, Vogue, and Cosmo are regularly read by females well under the target range-- a lot of pre-teens and middle-schoolers have copies stashed in their school lockers, delighting in the ridiculous quizzes ("Is he into you?") and oggling the newest fashions. I'm not going to argue their popularity or say they should be censored, buuuut.... perhaps teens are more impressionable than first thought? I mean, if reading an article about cutting carbs eventually leads to bulimia, something's up. Especially with recent events: Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died Nov. 14th at the weight of 88lbs. She was 5'8''. To put a little perspective on this, 88lbs would have been considered a healthy weight for a 12yr old. Reston, however, was 21.

Publishers may want to examine the lifestyle they glamorize. Showing more realistic body images and offering a varied palette of articles have been shown to work-- JANE's been using this template for years (though I'll admit I don't find it 100% perfect). At the same time, it should also fall to parents to monitor their tween's and teen's reading materials. JANE might represent a healthier and more empowering alternative, but if you visit their site, one of the top links is for a reader sex survey.

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