Social media 'likes' found to positively influence healthy food choices

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For the study, researchers found that participants who viewed highly-liked mock Instagram posts of fruit and vegetables ate a significantly higher proportion of grapes than cookies.

The consumption of grapes increased by 14 percent more calories compared to those who viewed highly-liked foods that are calorie-dense.

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"The findings of the study suggest that not only exposure to healthy food images on social media, but those that are also heavily endorsed with 'likes', may nudge people to choose to eat more healthy foods, in place of less nutritious foods," says Aston University psychology PhD student Lily Hawkins, study lead alongside supervisor Dr Jason Thomas. 

"What we see others approve of eating and post about eating on social media can affect our actual eating behaviour and could result in a 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 behaviour in order to fit in with what they perceive to be the norm," Lily adds.

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The researchers now want to trial an intervention using real Instagram accounts to test whether asking people to actively follow more social media accounts posting images of highly liked nutritionally rich foods is sustainable. They want to ascertain if this can encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables over a long period. 

The full results of the study have been published in the journal Appetite.

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