A recent study has found that 44 percent of Americans take fitness, health, and diet advice from influencers on social media sites, reported The Daily Mail.
A Cleveland Clinic and Parade magazine survey found that respondents were more likely to switch up their diet, start a new exercise regimen, and try natural remedies after seeing that social media influencers had done so as well.
Although social media has given the general public more access to health and wellness information, experts warn against false claims that circulate online and that can end up causing more harm than good.
Cleveland Clinic’s director of Functional Medicine, Dr. Mark Hyman, commented that just because a certain diet, exercise regimen, or health remedy is circulating online does not mean the advice has the ability to work wonders in real life.
“There can be a lot of false health claims out there, so it’s important to ask where that information or advice is coming from.”
An example of how false internet claims can lead to negative consequences is in the case of a 2018 study carried out by George Washington University that found that Russian trolls and bots were circulating the majority of anti-vaccination propaganda. At the same time, the number of Americans who were not vaccinating their children against measles was increasing, leading to a subsequent increase in measles outbreak rates in the United States.
The Cleveland Clinic study found that of the participants who took advice from online influencers, 20 percent had tried a natural remedy for a health problem, such as chamomile tea for anxiety or CBD oil as an alternative to chemotherapy.
Another 18 percent of respondents changed their diet or tried a new diet after learning about a diet from social media. The most popular diets included intermittent fasting, the Keto diet, and a plant-based diet.
The study also found that 22 percent of participants would be open to virtual medicine and consulting a doctor via video chat.
A whopping 72 percent reported that cutting sugar was a top dietary priority — a choice that can reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Dr. Hyman acknowledges that despite the risks associated with following false claims, social media is able to provide an opportunity for people to take control of and better their health.
“On the other hand, information coming from social media can be very inspiring. We do much better when we have a social support for what we’re doing, and social media can be very motivating.”