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Diet of social media 'may aid weight loss'

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Friends could influence diet

Friends could influence diet

Friends could influence diet

Social media is awash with influencers - but when it comes to food, your biggest influence could be friends.

Scientists claim that those on social networking platforms are more likely to eat a piece of fruit or vegetables if they think peers online do the same - and vice versa for people partial to snacking and junk food.

A group of 369 university students were asked to estimate how much fruit, vegetables, "energy-dense snacks" and sugary drinks they believe their Facebook friends chomp down each day.

Junk

Cross-referenced with participants' own actual eating habits, the results suggest that we tuck into similarly classed foods to what we perceive our social circles consume.

So those that ate junk food and believe peers online also indulge consumed around a third more of it, research in the Appetite journal says.

Meanwhile, people who thought their friends ate healthily tend to munch an extra fifth of a portion of fruit and vegetables themselves.

"This study suggests we may be influenced by our social peers more than we realise when choosing certain foods," said Lily Hawkins, an Aston University health psychology PhD student who worked on the study.

"The implication is that we can use social media as a tool to 'nudge' each other's eating behaviour within friendship groups, and potentially use this knowledge as a tool for public health interventions."

Aisling Pigott, a dietitian at the British Dietetic Association (BDA) said: "Research such as this demonstrates how we are influenced by online perceptions about how others eat.

"The promotion of positive health messages across social media, which are focused on promoting healthy choices and non-restrictive relationships with food and body, could nudge people into making positive decisions around the food they eat."