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Research Finds that Social Media Can Be Used to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Intake in Young People

Researchers from Aston University have found that people following healthy eating accounts on social media for as little as two weeks ate more fruit and vegetables and less junk food.

The research was led by Dr Lily Hawkins, whose PhD study it was, supervised by Dr Jason Thomas and Professor Claire Farrow in the School of Psychology.

The researchers recruited 52 volunteers, all social media users, with a mean age of 22, and split them into two groups. Volunteers in the first group, known as the intervention group, were asked to follow healthy eating Instagram accounts in addition to their usual accounts. Volunteers in the second group, known as the control group, were asked to follow interior design accounts. The experiment lasted two weeks, and the volunteers recorded what they ate and drank during the time period.

Overall, participants following the healthy eating accounts ate an extra 1.4 portions of fruit and vegetables per day and 0.8 fewer energy dense items, such as high-calorie snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks, per day. This is a substantial improvement compared to previous educational and social media-based interventions attempting to improve diets.

Dr Thomas and the team believe affiliation is a key component of the change in eating behaviour. For example, the effect was more pronounced amongst participants who felt affiliated with other Instagram users.


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