Weekly Wellness: Should you trust social media influencers about health advice?
COLUMBIA- There has been a lot of attention on social media these days. The validity of information found on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter has been questioned quite a bit. This problem is extending to health and wellness through social influencers.
The definition of a social influencer is “a person with a loyal audience and following online, who receives compensation in exchange for leveraging their platform to influence their audience.” In other words, these are people who get paid to promote stuff online. This can be dangerous when it comes to health issues.
A study by a team at University of Glasgow found that just one out of nine leading UK bloggers who were making weight management claims actually provided accurate and trustworthy information. The health researchers studied the country’s most popular influencers (based on those who had more than 80,000 followers on at least one social media site) and who had an active weight management blog.
What they found was shocking. The majority of the blogs could not be considered credible sources of weight management information. The bloggers were found to present opinion as fact and failed to meet the country’s nutritional criteria.
The team examined whether the health and diet claims made by influencers were transparent, trustworthy, nutritionally sound, and included evidence-based references. They also looked at the role of bias in what was put online.
Influencers were regarded as having "passed" the test if they met 70% or more of the criteria. Researchers also examined the latest 10 meal recipes from each blog for energy content, carbohydrates, protein, fat, saturated fat, fiber, sugar, and salt content.
Of the advice-based blogs, only one by a registered nutritionist with a degree passed overall, with 75%. The lowest compliance, 25%, was from an influencer without any nutritional qualifications.
The conclusion of the study is that social media influencers are not credible resources for weight management.
If you are looking for credible information for weight management and other health and wellness issues, reach out to your healthcare providers, certified health coaches, registered dieticians, etc. Don’t rely solely on social media.