Influencers Give Bad Fitness Advice, Study Finds

Influencers Give Bad Fitness Advice, Study Finds

It's easy to be swayed into believing that you could too look exactly like your favorite influencer with a steady consumption of the flat tummy tea.

But a new study has found that fitness advice from influencers and bloggers is most likely not credible. Latest research by University of Glasgow shows that only one out of nine bloggers that spouted fitness advice actually had evidence or facts to back it.

To conduct the study, researchers looked at top nine fitness bloggers in the UK who had more than 80k followers, along with two verified social media accounts, and an "active weight management blog."

"We found that the majority of the blogs could not be considered credible sources of weight management information, as they often presented opinion as fact and failed to meet UK nutritional criteria," Lead Author of the study, Christina Sabbagh concluded. "This is potentially harmful, as these blogs reach such a wide audience."

The bloggers were measured against 12 essential criteria to test their credibility. Anyone that met 70 percent or above, "passed" the test.

The criteria involved factors such as the role of bias in the posts, transparency, trustworthiness, nutritionally sound and evidence-based references. They additionally analyzed the meal recipes prescribed by influencers for their energy content, carbohydrates, protein, fat, saturated fat, fibre, sugar and salt content.

Almost all bloggers under scrutiny failed to meet the fundamental criteria. Findings further showed that half of the bloggers presented "opinion as fact" with no actual evidence, while the other half did not give out a disclaimer when prescribing meals against the Public Health England calorie targets and traffic light criteria. Only one blogger, who was also a registered nutritionist, was able to back up their claims meeting 75 percent of the criteria.

"Social media influencers' blogs are not credible resources for weight management. Popularity and impact of social media in the context of the obesity epidemic suggests all influencers should be required to meet accepted scientifically or medically justified criteria for the provision of weight management advice online," the authors said.

"This study adds to the evidence of the destructive power of social media. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can take to the ether, post whatever they like and be believed by their followers," added Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum.

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