Social Media Helps Young People Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Empower & Inspire: Spread Health & Wellness

Researchers at Aston University have discovered that following social media accounts focused on healthy eating can lead young people to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer unhealthy snacks. This finding comes from a study led by Dr. Lily Hawkins as part of her PhD work, under the guidance of Dr. Jason Thomas and Professor Claire Farrow at the School of Psychology.

The study involved 52 young adults who regularly use social media, with an average age of 22. They were divided into two groups for two weeks. The first group, called the intervention group, was asked to follow Instagram accounts promoting healthy eating along with their usual social media. The second group, the control group, followed accounts related to interior design.

After two weeks, the results showed that those in the healthy eating group increased their fruit and vegetable intake by 1.4 servings per day and ate fewer high-calorie snacks and sugary drinks by about 0.8 items per day. This change is more significant than other efforts to improve diets through education and social media.

The study suggests that feeling connected to others on social media who eat healthily can influence eating habits positively. The 2018 NHS Health Survey for England found that only 28% of people in the UK eat the recommended five portions of fruits and vegetables per day. Since poor diet is linked to major health issues like heart disease, cancer, and stroke, finding effective ways to encourage healthier eating is crucial.

Using social media, which is widely used, especially among young people, could be a great way to promote healthier eating habits. The researchers believe that social media can serve as a platform to spread positive influences about eating more fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Thomas commented, “This pilot study is just the beginning, but the results are promising. Making small changes to our social media feeds could significantly improve our diets at no cost. We plan to further investigate if these social media strategies can change our long-term eating behaviors.”

Dr. Hawkins, now at the University of Exeter, added, “Previous studies showed that social media influences what we eat. This study proves it can also apply in real life. We hope to confirm these findings in a broader community sample soon.”

Key Message:
Following social media accounts that promote healthy eating can lead to better dietary choices among young people, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and less junk food. This simple strategy could be a cost-effective way to improve diets and health outcomes.

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