Beware of online weight loss advice

Beware of online weight loss advice

Everybody has a go-to way to lose weight. And internet sites overflow with such advice. But scientists caution that these online sources can often be untrustworthy.

A study by University of Glasgow researchers offers an example of how treacherous those dieting waters can be. They surveyed key social media influencers in the United Kingdom who featured blogs on weight management.

They set a high bar to be considered an influencer. Bloggers had to have at least 80,000 followers on at least one social media site, among other criteria. They narrowed their list down to nine influencers, then analyzed the information these people dispensed using 12 factors researchers called “credibility indicators.”

Those included whether the health and diet claims followed sound nutritional guidance, provided evidence-based references, and were unbiased and transparent. The study also analyzed recipes offered by the bloggers.

The news for the bloggers, and those following their advice, was horrible: Only one of the nine influencers managed to hit 70 percent of the credibility indicators, the line that researchers considered passing.

Researchers concluded that the majority of these bloggers could not be considered credible sources of weight management information. The bloggers presented opinion as fact and failed to meet UK nutritional criteria. And that, researchers noted, is potentially dangerous to the wide audience these influencers reach.

So, who was the one influencer who passed this rigorous test? Researchers didn’t name names. But they noted this person was a registered nutritionist.

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