Researchers from Aston University’s School of Life and Health Science conducted a study that links eating habits and social media. Study participants reported eating an extra fifth portion of fruit and vegetables for every portion they thought their social media peers ate. The study found that participants ate an extra portion of unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks for every three portions their Facebook friends did.

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This is the first study to suggest that social media could be influencing people’s eating habits. This knowledge supports the use of social media nudge techniques to encourage users’ healthy eating.

In the study, 369 students were asked to estimate the amount of fruit, vegetables, energy-dense snacks and sugary drinks they believed their Facebook peers consumed daily. Researchers cross-referenced these responses with the participant’s self-reported eating habits.

Results from the study proved that participants who felt that the people they follow approve of junk food eating habits consumed more junk foods themselves. Participants who believe their social media peers ate healthily, ate more fruit and vegetables.

The next stage for the team is to track a participant group overtime to see if social media has any longer-term effects on weight. The study supports the use of social media as a tool to encourage healthier eating habits and encourage the use of public health interventions starting at a young age.

The study was published in Appetite.