According to a new study, social media users who see images of healthy foods that have received a lot of ‘likes’ are more likely to make healthier eating choices.
The study, which was published in the scientific journal Appetite, looked at how socially endorsed posts affected participants’ eating habits. The 169 participants, who ranged in age from 18 to 48, were asked to look at mock Instagram photos of various types of food that either had a few or a lot of ‘likes,’ and later given grapes and cookies to eat.
Researchers from Aston University’s College of Health and Life Sciences found that participants who viewed highly liked mock Instagram posts of fruit and vegetables ate a significantly higher proportion of grapes than cookies, with grape consumption increasing by 14 percent more calories than those who viewed highly liked high-calorie foods.
In addition to images of fruits and vegetables, participants also viewed less nutritious foods like cakes and cookies, as well as non-food images like trendy interior designs.
Aston University psychology PhD student Ms. Lily Hawkins, who led the study said, “What we see others approve of eating and post about eating on social media can affect our actual eating behavior and could result in greater consumption of healthier meals and snacks. One reason for this may be because thinking that others ‘like’ and eat fruit and vegetables nudges participants to alter their behavior to fit in with what they perceive to be the norm.”
According to the findings, social media could be used in the future to encourage healthy eating habits by promoting users to follow more social media accounts that have highly liked nutritionally balanced posts.