Objectives To investigate the quality of nutrition articles in popular national daily newspapers in the UK and to identify important predictors of article quality.
Setting Newspapers are a primary source of nutrition information for the public.
Design Newspaper articles were collected on 6 days of the week (excluding Sunday) for 6 weeks in summer 2014. Predictors included food type and health outcome, size of article, whether the journalist was named and day of the week.
Outcome measures A validated quality assessment tool was used to assess each article, with a minimum possible score of −12 and a maximum score of 17. Newspapers were checked in duplicate for relevant articles. The association of each predictor on article quality score was analysed adjusting for remaining predictors. A logistic regression model was implemented with quality score as the binary outcome, categorised as poor (score less than zero) or satisfactory (score of zero or more).
Results Over 6 weeks, 141 nutrition articles were included across the five newspapers. The median quality score was 2 (IQR −2–6), and 44 (31%) articles were poor quality. There was no substantial variation in quality of reporting between newspapers once other factors such as anonymous publishing, health outcome, aspect of diet covered and day of the week were taken into account. Particularly low-quality scores were obtained for anonymously published articles with no named journalist, articles that focused on obesity and articles that reported on high fat and processed foods.
Conclusions The general public are regularly exposed to poor quality information in newspapers about what to eat to promote health, particularly articles reporting on obesity. Journalists, researchers, university press officers and scientific journals need to work together more closely to ensure clear, consistent nutrition messages are communicated to the public in an engaging way.
- nutrition communication
- public health
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Contributors CELE provided the original research idea, supervised the research, wrote the first draft of the discussion and critically reviewed the first and subsequent drafts of the manuscript. ARK checked and analysed the data, wrote the first draft of the manuscript and contributed to all subsequent drafts. NA and NJ contributed to the design of the survey, collected the data, contributed to the analysis of the data and reviewed the final draft of the manuscript.
Funding The research was carried out in the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds with no external funding.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement No additional data are available for analysis.
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