- Many Americans turn to social media for health information related to diets and weight loss.
- It can be difficult to know how to decipher what is realistic and safe from what is not.
- Experts debunk four common nutrition myths circulating on social media.
If you find yourself scrolling through social media looking for ways to start new healthy routines, you’re not alone. According to data from the online patient community PatientsLikeMe, 11% of Americans surveyed said they turn to social media for health information.
However, while some of the advice you come across online may seem helpful and trustworthy—and some may also come from doctors, registered dietitians, or other qualified people—often, that’s not the case.
“[A] A lot of times what we see is someone who has put together their own weight loss plan or bowel cleanse, self-medicated whatever, and they’re trying to apply that to everyone…just because it worked for them doesn’t mean it will work for everyone and that’s where it can get Really dangerous,” Gene Scheinman, director of nutritional affairs for Timeline Nutrition, told Healthline.[They] Finding quick and intriguing solutions that people want to believe, but which are not backed by science and can be harmful.”
Dr. Rekha P. Kumar, assistant professor of medicine at Cornell University and medical director at Found, added that diets are often promoted on social media to get people excited.
“If it were all unbiased and balanced facts, it would be in a science journal and not on social media,” Kumar told Healthline.
While social media can be used as a tool to educate and disseminate information, she added that content “regarding diets and nutrition may be posted by influencers who don’t always have all the facts, but they may have some.”
Scheinman agreed. She said that a lot of diet myths start with a small fraction of the truth to make them convincing to try.
“This pure truth can be exaggerated or misunderstood until it becomes population wise,” she said.
It can be difficult to decipher what is realistic and what is not. To help ease the confusion, we asked health experts to debunk some of the most common nutrition myths being shared on social media.
While eating keto and low-carb eating can lead to weight loss, Kumar noted that these eating patterns are not appropriate for everyone “either because of medical conditions like diabetes that could make drastic carb-reduction dangerous or [because] These plans do not match an individual’s biology (ie, a different diet would be more effective). “
The types of foods eaten on these diets — especially the keto diet, which focuses on fats — also cause concern, Scheinman said.
“[What] I’m starting to see people doing this eating a lot of cheese and butter and tons of steak or bacon or lunch meats that are highly processed and limit veggies, whole grains and other important nutrients, so they have an imbalance in their diet,” she said.
She noted that studies looking at people who live healthier and longer lives have found that their diets are based on whole grains, beans and legumes.
Specifically, beans and legumes are linked to people living longer, so that’s when you stop eating these foods [you have to wonder] “What’s going on in terms of health,” Sheinman said.
Additionally, sticking to a keto or low-carb diet long-term is difficult, and when people start including carbs in their diet, Scheinman said they’re not doing so in a healthy way.
“[They’re] Not focusing on whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables. They started going back to those simple carbs like white bread and sugar and white pasta, and they put all the weight back on and then some, so it became this cyclical kind of yo-yo experience,” she said.
Kumar said caffeine is a stimulant that makes the brain feel more alert but doesn’t technically provide the body with food or energy. This is because caffeine does not trigger the cellular production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an organic compound that provides energy to the body.
“We have these areas of the brain that make us sleepy, and caffeine helps calm those nerve pathways. It really masks our low-energy crunch with a band-aid over the solution,” Scheinman explained.
She said caffeine consumption can also lead to dependency. For example, you can count on it in the morning and end up later in the day. However, when you drink caffeine later in the day, it can affect your sleep, and when you don’t sleep well, you wake up and turn to caffeine again. From there the cycle continues.
The solution to increased energy, Scheinman noted, is already in the body.
“We have these energy-producing organelles inside every cell called mitochondria, and when we nourish and take care of them [with] She said healthy lifestyle behaviors — like eating a healthy diet, getting good sleep, and managing stress — our bodies produce the energy we need.
While some celebrities have been vocal about the weight loss they’ve achieved with anti-obesity medication, Kumar said these injections have only been studied in obese or diabetic patients.
“There are known adverse effects, mostly gastrointestinal side effects, but we really don’t know the long-term effects of recreational use of losing a few pounds in the absence of metabolic disease,” she said.
Also, once the injections stop, Sheinman said weight gain can occur if eating and lifestyle habits aren’t changed.
There are medications that can be used to lose weight and so on [these injections] It could be an indicator that will appear in the future, but for now it is only for obesity and for people with diabetes,” she said.
Kumar said that neither cleanse nor today’s detox diet has been shown to be effective in the short or long term on metabolic health or cardiovascular disease risk.
“Detoxing may cause some to feel bloated in the short term, but these results are not permanent and may lead to reflux, water retention or constipation,” she said.
While there is some truth to the idea that there are more toxins in the world and people breathe in more pollution, eat more sugar and junk food, and therefore need to be eliminated from the body, Sheinman said that the body does indeed remove toxic substances naturally. .
“[The] The truth is, our bodies have a very complex detoxification process going on every single day – in the liver, kidneys, digestive tract, colon – all of this is how the body gets rid of toxins.”
To help the body with these processes, Sheinman said people can focus on healthy nutrition, good sleep, and limiting exposure to environmental toxins when possible.
In terms of the risks associated with cleanses and detoxes, she points out that food-based detox programs that suggest things like consuming fruit and vegetable juices or following a vegan diet for a limited time are probably harmless.
However, if supplements are included in these programs, they could be dangerous because the supplements “may or may not be regulated, and we’re not clear what they contain.”
According to Sheinman, psychological damage is another concern. The pressure to cleanse and detox often comes after the holidays and with the idea that you can eat whatever you want until January 1 and then detox.
“[This] You promote an unhealthy relationship with food and that you need to cleanse your body or punish your body for what you did to it in a fun food spree.”
While trends around diet, nutrition, and body cleansing can lead to weight loss or feeling better in the short term, Kumar said it’s hard to stick with them in the long term.
“Moderation and consistency are better long-term strategies. If someone chooses to embark on a fad diet or fad, there should be a plan for transitioning to a more moderate approach after that,” she said.
Leave a Reply