If you follow social media influencers and their fitness and diet tips, there’s a good chance that you are not getting the right kind of information. It turns out, social media influencers, and especially those on Instagram and YouTube, give bad diet and fitness advice eight times out of nine.
Health experts and professionals are worried about the growing influence that these social media influencers have on the public. That’s because just about anyone can post whatever they like and be believed by thousands of their followers. Unfortunately, not everything they say or do is healthy or even factually correct.
A study by a team of researchers from the University of Glasgow found that just one out of nine leading bloggers from the United Kingdom provide accurate and trustworthy information for social media followers. The study looked at data from the country’s most popular influencers, with many of them having 80,000 or more followers on their social media accounts. They also made sure that the influencers had a verification mark on their Twitter account and had an active weight management blog.
The study’s lead author, Christina Sabbagh, says that she feels as though the rising popularity of fitness and diet bloggers is becoming a problem. That’s because they are giving information that is potentially harmful to their audience. She says, "we found that the majority of the blogs could not be considered credible sources of weight management information, as they often presented opinion as fact and failed to meet UK nutritional criteria."
In the study, the university team looked at whether the health and diet claims made by the influencers were transparent, factual and above all, trustworthy. They found that a lot of the advice that influencers share in their posts and vlogs are not always nutritionally sound. They looked at blog recipes for information on energy content, carbohydrates, protein, fat, saturated fat, fiber, sugar, and salt content. A lot of the influencers did not even include evidence-based references in their posts.
The study also found that many people who like to call themselves "influencers" don’t even have the right qualifications to call themselves nutrition or diet experts. Only one advice-based blog was by an influencer who is also a registered nutritionist with a university degree. The study found that other bloggers had no nutritional qualifications or education.
"Currently, no standards exist to assess the credibility of influencers' blogs," Sabbagh says. "Given the popularity and impact of social media, all influencers should be required to meet accepted scientifically or medically justified criteria for the provision of weight management advice online."
READ NEXT: Is A Vegan Diet Healthy For Kids?