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How To Keep Health Misinformation Out Of Your Social Feed 

In today’s day and age, you’d be hard-pressed to live an informed life without having at least one social media account. After all, social media platforms like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and TikTok have totally changed how we consume news and other media. From political pundits, to wellness gurus, to cuddly sloths, there’s an overabundance of content circulating on these platforms, which can make distinguishing fact from fiction challenging. 

As such, it’s no surprise that registered dietitians recently surveyed by Pollack Communications and Today’s Dietitian reported Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok as significant sources of misleading nutrition information (with TikTok being the biggest culprit).

“These platforms are all about grabbing your attention with flashy content, not necessarily giving you the facts—and, because of that, even well-meaning folks can end up spreading info that’s more fiction than fact,” says functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P. “TikTok’s all about short, snappy videos, so you’re not getting deep dives into nutrition science.” In other words, legitimate experts are sometimes left competing for views with gimmick-laden influencer accounts. 

Exposure to misinformation on social media platforms can be downright dangerous, especially when it comes to health and nutrition. Fortunately, though, there are ways to keep the BS out of your feed and create a social media environment that supports your well-being. Read on for six smart tips.

1. Follow credible sources

Before you follow someone who seems like an expert, take a moment to check out their credentials. A verified badge or checkmark next to their name doesn’t confirm their degrees, certifications, and the like; it just confirms that the account actually belongs to the person it claims to be. 

If someone refers to themselves as a doctor, do they have a licensed medical degree? They should list credentials like M.D., Ph.D., Psy.D., N.D., or O.D. (to name a few) clearly. In the realm of nutrition, registered dietitian Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook, recommends avoiding anyone not credentialed with a nutrition degree such as R.D., R.D.N., F.N.T.P., or C.N.S. 

2. Check their backup

Before you share something a social media figure posted about health or nutrition, consider confirming where their information came from. Most well-respected health experts share clear citations, references to peer-reviewed research, and any other evidence that supports their viewpoint or recommendation, according to Harris-Pincus. An anecdote presented as scientific evidence is anything but. Sources like PubMed or websites that end in “.gov” or “.edu” suggest that information is legitimate.

3. Be wary of fear-mongering

Even licensed experts can sometimes share extreme views, so be mindful of the energetics of the health pros you follow, warns Harris-Pincus. “If a nutrition expert calls foods ‘toxic’ or ‘poison,’ or suggests that a single food can be the cause of illness, run for the hills,” she says. “Focus on people who share positivity and science-based information you can check yourself.” Fear-mongering can be just as harmful as blatant lies.

4. Engage mindfully 

It’s essential to approach social media—particularly health-related content—with mindfulness and self-awareness. “There is so much temptation for comparison out there; resist the temptation to compare yourself to unrealistic standards or succumb to the pressures of fad diets and wellness trends,” says Rodgers. “Prioritize content that promotes a positive body image, self-compassion, and sustainable health practices instead. Doing so will protect your mental and emotional well-being, and foster a harmonious and healthy relationship with your body and lifestyle choices.” 

5. Remember That Social Media Isn’t Real Life

On that note, it’s also wise to be wary of content that poses itself as reality but feels too good to be true. After all, everything on social media is inherently crafted or curated in some way, leaving a degree (or more) of separation between content you consume from an influencer or expert and their real life.

Read More: 6 TikTok Health Trends That Aren’t Anywhere Close To Healthy

A perfect example is the popular #WhatIEatInADay tag on TikTok and Instagram. You’ll often find it linked to posts in which nutrition experts (some real and some not-so-legit) showcase every little thing they supposedly eat or drink in a 24-hour period. The potential problem here: Though the tag suggests you’re getting a true peek into someone else’s routine, you may not be getting the whole truth, says California-based dietitian Sharon Palmer, R.D. Instead, you may just be served a look at what that person eats on a day that they want to share. Not only can this spread some level of untruth, but can also perpetuate the idea that what works for one person should work for you, too—which often isn’t the case, Palmer says. 

6. Make sure social media isn’t your only source

Social media can be an engaging and convenient way to consume your news, but it shouldn’t be the only way. Harris-Pincus recommends staying abreast of current health news and developments by following other trusted sources and subscribing to reputable health newsletters or blogs. This way, you’ll have a clearer sense of the full story when you get hit with a particularly pointed social post, she explains. 

Read More: What A Dietitian Has To Say About ‘Good’ And ‘Bad’ Foods

It’s also wise to do your own homework on health topics that interest you or hit close to home, in general, so that you’re well-equipped to think independently and critically when approached with questionable content. 

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