beware of misleading nutritional advice on TikTok

It needs no introduction, its benefits are now well known: the Mediterranean diet is considered a model of healthy eating. And this for the simple reason that it has been shown that this type of diet, which is easy to adapt to daily life, is associated with a reduction in mortality and morbidity and a lower incidence of cardio-metabolic diseases. Thereby, “ it is not a “diet” like the others, but rather a way of eating since it is not based on voluntary restriction. “, as the scientific journal Vidal explains on this subject. With the key to a reduction in overall morbidity and also a lower incidence of the main chronic diseases: cardiovascular diseases, arterial hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers… The common base of this dietary style is based on foods little processed and therefore little refined, in particular cereals, legumes, seeds, nuts and oilseeds and olive oil used abundantly in raw or cooked preparations. So it’s no surprise that more and more people want to learn how to properly implement it on their daily plates.

But a new study reveals that people who browse the hugely popular TikTok platform, especially younger people, for information on this diet are likely to find advice that is neither aligned with the Mediterranean diet nor particularly healthy. “ People won’t be able to follow the Mediterranean diet if they don’t understand what it is and how to incorporate it into their home food environment. », explains Professor Margaret Raber of Baylor College of Medicine, lead author of the study. “Our results suggest that while users find high-quality content created by medical professionals, they will also encounter conflicting, vague, or even misleading information when exploring TikTok with the word #mediterraneandiet.” The researchers started from the observation that while the diet takes its name from the traditional eating habits of certain countries bordering the Mediterranean, not all the diverse cuisines of the Mediterranean region reflect the Mediterranean diet as scientists and doctors understand it. often.

Carbohydrates, meats, sugar… these foods that should not be mentioned

It is this peculiarity that may have led to confusion about what constitutes the Mediterranean diet as such. To assess the recommendations given on this topic on social media, the researchers analyzed the first 200 videos appearing on TikTok under the hashtag #mediterraneandiet in August 2021. They found that most posts (78%) were posted under a hashtag “related to health in some way” but that less than 9% of the posts analyzed offered a precise definition of what the Mediterranean diet entails. Furthermore, one in five messages did not concern health at all, focusing exclusively on the food and culture of the countries bordering the Mediterranean. “ Alarmingly, a large proportion (69%) of these posts promoted foods that are not part of the healthy eating pattern promoted by the Mediterranean diet, such as red meat, refined carbohydrates, sweets and processed foods. “, adds Professor Margaret Raber, whose results of the study were relayed on the occasion of the flagship annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition which was held from June 14 to 16.

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The most concrete example concerns in particular lamb kebab and pita bread, foods that are popular in certain Mediterranean countries but which do not correspond to the Mediterranean diet. In the first case, it is indeed advisable to know according to the review Vidal that if one wishes to correctly apply the bases of the Mediterranean diet, products of animal origin, mutton, lamb, poultry, beef, fish, eggs and pork, should be consumed in moderate amounts. For people who like to find nutritional information on social networks, scientists therefore recommend that they make sure to search for content that favors reliable health references. Without forgetting to always ask your doctor or a nutrition specialist if the information unearthed on this social network, and others, seems contradictory with the basic nutritional recommendations. Finally, for public health practitioners, they believe that this study highlights the urgent need for new strategies to communicate about nutrition and to counter online misinformation in this area.

We need to be vigilant about information found on social media, especially if it influences health decisions. “, emphasizes Professor Raber. She concludes: i don’t think we can fully harness the power of social media for health promotion if we don’t tackle the issue of quality of information and give the public tools to help them navigate properly in these new types of media. It should be noted that the Vidal magazine gives its recommendations for adopting the Mediterranean diet in practice and making it a basic daily diet. In reality, “all you have to do is compose a diversified meal that excludes processed foods, simple sugars and animal fats as much as possible and reinforces the place of fruits and vegetables to get closer to them and take advantage of their preventive properties. “, she says. And this without forgetting to respect the seasonality of the products, a habit that allows you to enjoy better taste qualities. Finally, by reducing the consumption of red meat, it is then possible for the same cost to access quality products, organic for example.

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