Visiting social media outlets is a daily ritual for many. Among the online platforms, Facebook reigns with almost 2.5 billion active users every month. A research team turned to Facebook users to discover how social media influences eating habits.

For the study published in the journal Appetite, 369 women and men, average age 22.1 years, stated their perceptions of the eating choices of Facebook users from a list of fruits, vegetables, sugar-sweetened beverages and energy-dense snacks. Then they reported their own perceptions of these foods and what they ate.

The analysis determined that for every portion of fruits and vegetables study participants thought their social media connections ate, they ate an extra fifth of a portion of fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, participants indulged in an extra portion of sugary drinks or unhealthy snacks for every three portions consumed by those in their social media circle. Basically, participants who felt their social circles implicitly approved of eating junk food consumed significantly more of it themselves, and those who thought their friends ate a healthy diet ate more fruits and vegetables.

Sources of the perceptions were not tracked, although they may have come from images of foods that were posted or a general sense of their peers’ lifestyles. After reviewing the findings, the authors suggested that these results support the idea that social media influences eating choices and perhaps could be used to encourage healthier food choices.