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Do your social media friends post pictures of smoothies and salads or French fries and donuts? The answer could affect your food choices.
You're more likely to eat the way your social media friends do, according to a study conducted by researchers at Aston University's School of Life and Health Sciences in the UK. The team found that college students ate more fruit and vegetables if they believed their social media peers did the same. The same was true of negative dietary habits. College students indulged in more junk food if they perceived that their social medial contacts did.
In the study, college students were asked to note their perceptions of their social media contacts' consumption of fruit, vegetables, sugar-sweetened beverages, and energy-dense snacks as well as their own consumption of these foods. Students also reported their BMIs.
When researchers examined the data they found that study participants were more likely to eat significantly more junk food when they perceived their social media contacts approved of eating junk food. The opposite was also true. Participants who perceived that their social media contacts consumed a healthy diet consumed more fruit and vegetables, according to the study published in January in the journal, Appetite.
Results from lab studies suggest peoples' eating habits are influenced by social norm messages that convey the usual eating behavior of others. Results of the Aston University study suggest the same occurs in real life via social media.
The takeaway is that the eating behavior of social network groups may influence our own, so choose your contacts wisely. However, researchers noted perceived social norms did not significantly predict BMI.
So what should you eat for optimal health and wellness? That depends on many factors including any health conditions you may have and your weight. Follow your doctor's recommendations. However, many health professionals advocate the Mediterranean diet to promote health and longevity.
MedicineNet author Betty Kovacs Harbolic, MS, RD notes the Mediterranean diet emphasizes ample fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil, nuts, and low- or non-fat dairy. The diet sets limits around cheese, yogurt, eggs, red meat, and sweets.
"The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet range from a lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, and stroke; lower blood pressure and LDL levels; improved brain function, eye health, and fertility; healthy body weight; and increased life span," she said.