American research suggests that so-called health and fitness magazines can damage your body image — and may even harm your health.
The research in Pediatrics magazine was published with brilliant timing for the editor of Loaded who had just pronounced health stories 'boring'. Wonder if he'll publish this one?
In the study of over 10,000 12-18 year-olds, 5% of boys (that's 1 in 20) regularly used used some sort of product supposed to grow muscle. Most used protein powders or shakes but some took dietary supplements such as creatine and amino acids. The figure was 2% for girls.
Boys who read men's or health and fitness magazines were twice as likely as other boys to use 'muscle-enhancing' products. The same was true of boys and girls who said they were 'making a lot of effort' to look like a particular person in the media.
All told, one-third of the teenagers said they often wished they were more 'toned' or 'defined.' The study's lead author, Dr. Alison Field of the Children's Hospital, Boston believes this preoccupation with getting toned may constitute a common but overlooked body-image problem for both boys and girls. 'Any percentage is troubling, particularly when you're talking about kids this age,' she told Reuters Health.
These findings, Field said, show that both boys and girls feel pressure to attain some ideal shape. This is not just a girl thing.
Field is not arguing that media images cause these body concerns but she thinks kids need a dose of realism to see 'how doctored those pictures are'. 'We need to make children more media-savvy,' she said. 'They're trying to attain an impossible ideal.'
Overall, 10% of boys had used a protein powder or shake some time in the past year while 4% had used creatine supplements. A handful of teenagers said they frequently used steroids or other hormonal substances such as growth hormone or the over-the-counter supplement DHEA.
Creatine is the protein in muscle that helps supply energy for short bursts of activity. Some research suggests supplemental creatine improves muscle mass and strength, but side effects include cramping and dehydration. The long-term safety is unclear as is the safety of DHEA, a synthesized version of a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that can be converted to testosterone and oestrogen. DHEA side effects include elevated blood pressure, lowered levels of 'good' HDL cholesterol and liver damage.
The credibility of the so-called lads mags when it comes to health issues was further dented last week when the editor of Loaded said health stories were boring.
Martin Daubney told the media weekly Press Gazette that 'men buy men's magazines to escape from the humdrum issues in life. Loaded doesn't have features on sexual health for the same reason we don't have articles on pensions, mortgages and allotments; they're a grim side of reality we don't need to remind our readers of â€” and they're also deeply boring.
'If matronly women's mags like Company want to bang on about testicular cancer and encourage women to play with men's scrotums then good luck to them.'
Page created on August 8th, 2005
Page updated on December 1st, 2009