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Study: Food featured in celebrity social media posts often unhealthy

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Posted at 12:19 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 15:20:20-05

When it comes to healthy eating, there's more negative influence coming from social media than one may think.

A study published in the JAMA Network Open journal looked at some of the most followed accounts on Instagram and found an overwhelming number of their posts about food and drinks would be considered unhealthy by nutritional standards other countries have for advertising guidelines.

"If they post a single food post, or a single beverage post, this hits the news feeds of more people than the amount of people who are going to watch the Super Bowl a month from now," said Bradley Turnwald, one of the researchers for the study.

Turnwald studies factors that make people engage in healthy behaviors and what undermines their motivation.

"This can really contribute to a followers' perception of what is common, what is valued in society right now," Turnwald said.

The research also found half of all the drink posts were for alcoholic beverages. Past research has shown that the more exposure a young person has to alcohol, the more likely they are to drink.

But celebrity content isn't all to blame. When a celebrity posted something considered "unhealthy," the study found that they got more likes and comments than healthy food and drink posts, which incentivizes similar posts.

Turnwald also believes researchers would likely find similar trends in unhealthy food and drink posts among regular social media users.

"When a celebrity post something, and it can hit tens or hundreds of millions of feeds at once because they're looked up to as these role models and trendsetters in society," Turnwald said. "But if they would take those actions and post healthier foods and beverages, it could start to shift that norm of what followers are seeing and liking and commenting on, and I think that can have a really positive effect for public health."