Updated: Sep 11, 2020
In a world full of nutrition fads, myths and trends it can be difficult to know where to start when trying to make healthy lifestyle choices. We live in a world where we now have more apps, cookbooks and instagram health gurus than we have artfully arranged smoothie bowls....
Yet we still seem to find ourselves constantly asking what should we be eating? Is this good for me? Should I be vegan? Paleo? raw before 12?... oh and if I eat this gluten will I ruin my health forever more?
Living in an age of "Influencers" and "Social-media Celebrities", many of whom who are unqualified nutrition "experts" has not helped this.
An "Influencer" is a person that has an above average ability to informally influence the attitudes and behaviours of others in a desired way. They are interesting and often relatable.
The problem is that we don't often associate them with marketing and this is BIG buisness. In 2019 the estimated value of the social influencer market was approx 6.5 billion (6,500,000,000)!!(1)
Young people cite social media as their main source of health information and the biggest influencers on social media have no nutrition or medical qualifications & therefore no accountability for the danger they put their followers in.
This is dangerous...in particular in the field of health and nutrition.
We know that:
Health information on social media is not subject to the same degree of filtering and quality control by professional gatekeepers.
It is prone to being out of date, incomplete and inaccurate.
There is no marketing manager or editor looking at it and saying that we cant put that out there simply because its untrue.
In defence of the influencer community eating is an area we can all have an opinion on - after all we have to do it every day. However when the public are getting their dietary advice from opinions, anecdotes and conspiracies instead of scientific evidence this is where we run into problems.
I am going to give two examples, Jessica Ainscough and Belle Gibson. Both built up very significant wellness profiles based on alternative therapies. Both promoting diets to cure cancer.
Jessica Ainscough (known as "The Wellness Warrior") passed away of a soft tissue cancer aged 22. Her wellness warrior platform promoted an alternative therapy (Gerson therapy- an intensive dietary treatment regime that includes a strict organic and vegetarian diet, supplements and coffee enemas, which has no scientific evidence to support it) over the advised route of surgery and chemotherapy.
Belle Gibson, another health blogger used her platform to sell millions of books and had a no.1 best selling app "The Whole Pantry" claiming to have cured her cancer by diet alone. It later transpired that she was a fraud and never had cancer in the first place.
They both built massive amounts of influence in this market but also generated quite a lot of revenue. The heart-breaking likelihood of these examples is that these hugely influential blogs and social media platforms persuaded other people with treatable cancer to follow an oncology plan based solely on "natural" therapies rejecting proven medical therapies.
These are extreme examples but it highlights the power and impact some of these mixed messages can have. Have you ever heard the term The Dunning Kruger effect?
Basically it means a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. The people with the least experience and knowledge talk with the most confidence and authority, because they have no idea how limited their knowledge actually is.
The gurus are often just confidently wrong.
Not every body on the internet is doing a bad job and messages often come from good intentions, but trusting scientific evidence rather than opinion is crucial.
To help you navigate through some of the nutrition nonsense on the internet I have put together a FREE guide to sourcing reliable nutrition information which is available below.
If you have time please also sign the petition below to help regulate health information on the internet.
Thanks for reading!
Global influencer marketing value 2016-2019,Published by A. Guttmann, Feb 3, 2020