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It was revealed today that a growing number of young women are now deficient in vital nutrients, as a result of trendy diets made popular by social media.
Experts have warned that women in their 20s and 30s now lack key minerals such as potassium, magnesium and copper. This is particularly bad news for women who are already deficient in iron, calcium and iodine.
Many Britons who follow social media are increasingly cutting out ingredients such as gluten, dairy, grains or sugar.
The most obvious ‘exclusion diet’ is vegetarianism, cutting out both meat and fish.
Experts now worry that people who follow social media are confused by these diet trends, neurotic about food and unsure about what they should and shouldn’t be eating.
Based on the data from 3,238 adults who took part in Public Health England’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the report found that the average woman is falling short on a shocking seven out of eight key minerals, with the average man falling short on five out of eight.
This severe lack in minerals and nutrients can lead to fatigue, weakened immune systems, weak bones, muscle problems and even infertility.
The Government and NHS both insist that a balanced diet is enough to provide the nutrients we need. Also suggested, is taking a vitamin D supplement in the winter and folic acid during pregnancy.
‘Avoidance of food groups is very trendy at the moment but if you follow these diets you need to work very hard to make sure you get the right nutrients,’ says nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire.
Why Instagram is the worst culprit
Instagram has in fact been ranked as having the worst effect on young people’s mental health.
In a survey of almost 1,500 Britons aged 14 to 24, The Royal Society for Public Health found that young people were most likely to feel depressed and lonely after using the app, as well as associating it with negative attributes and low self-esteem, resulting in poor body image and lack of sleep.
However, it doesn’t end there.
More specifically, a recent study by University College London found a link between high Instagram use and the eating disorder orthorexia nervosa. Scrolling through a feed of green smoothies and yoga posing is beginning to show evidence of leaving a damaging mark.
Researchers surveyed 680 females with an average healthy BMI about what social media they use and how often.
They also asked which of 19 food types the ate, and used a questionnaire to assess how many orthorexic symptoms they possess.
In the publication on the National Library of Medicine, they concluded that high Instagram use is associated with a greater tendency towards orthorexia nervosa (ON), and interestingly, no other social media platform has the same effect.
ON is an illness and obsession with eating healthily, whereby people showing symptoms eat more fruit and vegetables, cut out food groups such as white carbohydrates, shop in health food stores, exercise and rarely drink alcohol.
It sounds like simple healthy lifestyle choices, right?
The difference is ON is also associated with significant dietary restrictions, malnutrition and social isolation. There is an overlap with both obsessive compulsive disorder and anorexia, sharing traits of rituals and intrusive thoughts for the former and perfectionism and guilt over food for the latter.
The researchers note that ON is currently more prevalent with yoga instructors, dietitians, nutrition students and exercise science students compared to the general population, where it is estimated to be less than one per cent.
As well as this, the Independent reported on a paper last week which points out that Instagramming our food can have an effect on later enjoyment.
According to the UCL researchers, 54 percent of the us are turning to their feeds to discover and share food experiences, and 42 percent using it to seek advice about food. Therefore, the harm of the ‘clean eating’ trend is already a hot topic.
Of course, during an obesity epidemic, encouraging healthy eating is a good thing. Using Instagram to share a weight loss journey may be the key to one persons success. Finding fellow fitness fanatics and sharing recipes is another’s ticket to like-minded friends.
On the other hand, a scroll though social media can be a knock to our self confidence, or more seriously, fuel for a mental illness. The authors suggested these three reasons for the link between Instagram and the eating disorder:
Firstly, Instagram is all about the pictures. Taking the perfect shot of your protein pancakes means more likes, and a great platform to attract other healthy eaters.
Secondly, all the posts you see are from people you follow (or similar, on the explore page). Following tons of the #fitfam crew or slim food bloggers will expose you to a bombardment of extreme health messages, allowing for normalisation of behaviours which users may feel pressures to conform to.
Thirdly, we see social media influencers as an authority who we look up to. Their posts and words reach millions of people looking for answers and advice, turning to popular ‘celebrity’ like figures rather than experts.
The participants in the study were recruited through the health community on social media, and although the sample size was small, the authors point out there are now over 500 million users on Instagram worldwide, meaning this could be very worrying on a population level.