The quality of the evidence for dietary advice given in UK national newspapers

Public Underst Sci. 2012 Aug;21(6):664-73. doi: 10.1177/0963662511401782. Epub 2011 Apr 11.


Introduction: Newspaper reports advocating dietary intake changes may impact on dietary choice and food related health beliefs. The scientific basis and quality of evidence underpinning these reports is uncertain.

Objective: To evaluate the scientific quality of newspaper reporting related to dietary advice.

Design: Articles offering dietary advice from the top ten selling UK newspapers for a randomly selected week were assessed using two established evidence grading scales: developed by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN).

Results: Of 111 dietary health claims identified, 72% and 68% (assessed by WCRF and SIGN criteria respectively) had levels of evidence lower than the convincing or probable categories that are recommended for dietary health claims.

Conclusions: Misreporting of dietary advice by UK newspapers is widespread and may contribute to public misconceptions about food and health.

Keywords: foods; health; health claim; newspaper article; systematic review.