The effectiveness of a social media intervention for reducing portion sizes in young adults and adolescents
Objective: Adolescents and young adults select larger portions of energy-dense food than recommended. The majority of young people have a social media profile, and peer influence on social media may moderate the size of portions selected. Methods: Two pilot-interventions examined whether exposure to images of peers' portions of high-energy-dense (HED) snacks and sugar-sweetened-beverages (SSBs) on social media (Instagram) would influence reported ideal portions selected on a survey. Confederate
... survey. Confederate peers posted 'their' portions of HED snacks and SSBs on Instagram. At baseline and intervention end participants completed surveys that assessed ideal portion sizes. Results: In intervention 1, Undergraduate students (N=20, Mean age=19.0y, SD=0.65y) participated in a two-week intervention in a within-subjects design. Participants reported smaller ideal portions of HED snacks and SSBs following the intervention, and smaller ideal portions of HED snacks for their peers. In intervention 2, adolescents (N=44, Mean age=14.4y, SD=1.06y) participated in a four-week intervention (n=23) or control condition (n=21) in a between-subjects design. Intervention 2 did not influence adolescents to reduce their ideal reported portion sizes of HED snacks or SSBs relative to control. Conclusions: Overall, these preliminary studies demonstrated that social media is feasible as a means to communicate with young people but produced no significant impact on ideal reported portion sizes for HED snacks and SSBs in adolescents. Ideal portion sizes of some foods and beverages may be resistant to change via a social media intervention in this age group.