How do social networks shape their food choices?

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By Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, February 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) – For better or worse, your social media friends may be influencing your eating habits, British researchers report.

They asked almost 400 college students to calculate how many fruits, vegetables, snacks and sugary drinks their Facebook friends ate each day.

Those participants who believed that their social media friends ate the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables in turn ate an additional portion.

But they also served an extra portion of unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks for every three servings they thought their friends had online.

"This study suggests that our social partners can influence us more than we realize when choosing certain foods," said study co-leader Lily Hawkins, a PhD student in health psychology at Aston University in Birmingham, England. "It seems that we subconsciously explain how others behave when we make our own food choices."

The findings provide evidence that online social circles influence people's eating habits, and suggest that it might be possible to use social networks to encourage healthy eating, according to the researchers.

"The implication is that we can use social networks as a tool to & # 39; push & # 39; the eating behavior of others within friendship groups, and potentially use this knowledge as a tool for public health interventions" Hawkins said in a university press release.

The researchers did not find a significant link between participants' eating habits and their body mass index (BMI), an estimate of body fat based on weight and height.

Then they plan to follow people over time to see if the influence of social networks on eating habits has a long-term impact on weight.

The study was published on February 6 in the journal. Appetite.

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SOURCE: Aston University, press release, February 6, 2020

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