One of the hardest things we have to deal with in our industry is the rise of the social media influencer. For a long time now I have been saying that these influencers can literally only be relied upon to get it wrong. I have taken torrents of abuse from people online regarding this stance and largely have been drowned out. My stance has always been that if you haven’t studied the subject of health, nutrition or medicine, at a degree or masters level you shouldn’t be preaching about it online.
It can take me up to a year to undo the damage that social media does to people’s relationship with food. I have had clients come to me suffering the effects of dangerously low protein intake, for fear of looking bulky or because some influencer told them vegan was easy and best, and having had their muscle waste so badly their joints and muscles have started to degrade making life painful and physical activity intolerable.
I have also had people trying to exercise whilst being on no carbohydrates to replace the glycogen they have lost, and are suffering with exhaustion.
I have seen people remove dairy from their diet because that’s what a social media influencer told them to do and then they had a horrendous vitamin D deficiency.
It always comes down to money and it is clear that whenever the bad advice is handed out there is a motive behind it, whether it is multi level marketing products or dangerous weight loss products. The result of this influencer gaining a few extra pounds can be catastrophic for their reader – don’t even get me started on the social media gurus of the exercise world!
As an exercise physiologist and now as a student Physician Associate, the one thing we are told to do is stay in our lane. Keep in scope and perform literature reviews and scientific research in order to gain an understanding of the implications of our actions before we make suggestions. This however seems to have been missed out of the Social Media Influencer curriculum school.
Despite being an unpopular opinion, finally some new research has come out that suggests that I have been hitting the nail on the head for the last few years.
Research by the University of Glasgow suggests that 8 out of 9 social media influencers talking about nutrition gives incorrect and bad advice about nutrition! The one social media influencer that did get it right was a registered nutritionist trained to degree level.
You might be surprised to hear that one of the 8 that got it wrong was also a doctor. This should be expected though because, despite what a lot of people think, doctors don’t usually get trained in nutrition as part of their training and this is the reason they partner up with nutritionists and dieticians who deliver nutrition advice as a job and have degrees in it!
My advice to anyone looking for help with nutrition is to always consult the person who has invested time and money into their knowledge first, not into marketing.