Reddit groups might help, while Instagram influencers could set unrealistic expectations. So is it ever useful to turn to social media for diet advice?

There are a dizzying number of people, companies and accounts hawking diet advice online. To take just one example, a quick search for the hashtag #fitspiration on Instagram brings up millions of images – close-ups of ultra-defined abs, huge biceps, „transformation” before/after pictures and people in workout gear lifting weights.

Behind them all lurks a big question: Can social media help or hinder your diet?

Keep one key thing in mind. If you’re looking to lose weight, especially a lot of weight, consult a professional first – your doctor or your GP. They can give you personal advice. Not every diet is suitable for every individual.

Tim Squirrell, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, compared two big social networks and concluded that text-heavy Reddit has a clear advantage over photo-led Instagram.

Reddit is based around interest communities, he says, and these tend to be more supportive and foster a sense of common purpose.

„People decide what content is most relevant to them, they upvote it, that appears to other people and they can then comment on it,” he notes. The network’s community-based model means that „real people” give advice and share personal stories.

Squirrell cites the example of the subreddit r/paleo, which has more than 120,000 subscribers, devoted to the so-called „caveman diet”. The paleo diet focuses on foods that you can theoretically hunt or find in nature, the same way our hunter-gatherer ancestors did before the agricultural revolution – so there’s a strong emphasis on meat, fish and eggs, at the expense of bread, pasta, deep-fried snacks and microwave meals.

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