People eat more fruit and veg 'if they think peers on social media are doing the same’

Tuesday 11th February 2020 16:04 EST

Scientists have found people ate an extra portion of fruit and vegetable each day if they thought their peers on Facebook were doing the same. The copycat tactics are not limited to healthy eating habits - junk food consumption increased by a third if people believed their friends were also indulging. 

Researchers warned that the approval from our friends who are chomping down on unhealthy foods may give us a dangerous 'licence to eat'. 

The researchers from Aston University, Birmingham, said the findings could be useful for tackling bad eating habits in children using social media. 

In the study which was published in the scientific journal Appetite the researchers asked 369 university students to estimate the amount of fruit, veg, 'calorie-dense snacks' and sugary drinks their Facebook friends ate on a daily basis.

This information was cross-referenced with the participants' own eating habits and showed that those who felt their social circles 'approved' of eating junk food consumed significantly more themselves.

Meanwhile those who thought their friends ate a healthy diet ate more portions of fruit and veg. 

Their perceptions could have come from seeing friends' posts about the food and drink they consumed, or simply a general impression of their overall health.

Scientists note that the study showed no significant link between people's eating habits and their Body Mass Index (BMI).

The most recent figures from the NHS's Health Survey for England showed that, in 2018, only 28 per cent of adults were eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

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