Social media has becoming increasingly popular over the last 15 years and unsurprisingly has surfaced as a major source of health information. Several individuals and organizations seek to influence opinion through the content they share, whether that be from authoritative public health information sources, their own experiences, or even their own interests.
According to a study published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, diet is the most discussed topic on twitter, accounting for >50% of tweets.Twitter is just one out of many widely used social media platforms. Imagine the total percentage if all platforms were accounted for! Unfortunately, however, evidence shows that the diet information shared is often out of date, inaccurate, not supported by evidence, and/or may be deceptive and misleading. Many of these influencers are unqualified to provide nutritional/dietary guidance or advice, though the public is acting on it anyway.
One common dietary misconception trending all over the U.S. is that you need to go on a low-carbohydrate diet to lose weight. This misconception stems from the Carbohydrate-Insulin Model (CIM), or the theory that carbohydrates spike insulin secretion, which leads to an increase in fat storage. While there are some points of truth to the CIM, carbohydrates are not the enemy and you do not have to go on a low-carbohydrate diet to lose weight.
For instance, according to research completed by Hu, Mills, and Tao, a low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet are equally effective at decreasing body weight and waist circumference. Additional research by Zafar et al., meta analyzed 101 studies that evaluated the effect a low glycemic index (GI) diet has on weight loss compared to that of other diet types. The researchers concluded that although low-GI diets were moderately effective in lowering body weight, they were not superior to any other diet.
Although a low-carbohydrate diet can be effective for weight loss, I am a strong believer in following a diet that promotes lifelong lifestyle changes and ultimately, sustainable weight loss. The reason many are drawn to a low-carbohydrate diet is due to the glittering claims of fast results; however, they are difficult to adhere to over a long period of time, which often results in individuals reverting to their former eating habits and ultimately, regaining their weight. It is not dietary advice per se, but the implementation of such advice and its translation into daily life that is important!
Some important tips to follow when seeking weight loss is to choose nutrient-dense foods, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, consume calorie-dense cravings in moderation, listen to your hunger and satiety cues, consume an adequate amount of water, move in ways that make you feel good, control your stress levels, obtain adequate amounts of sleep, choose whole grains most of the time, eat all 3 meals daily, and substitute your favorite every-day foods with more nutritious alternatives.