Sydney Chamberlain, Jana Mitchell, Davis Major, Lena Elimam, Cassandra Cleland
Dr. Julie Merten | Brooks College of Health | Department of Public Health
Background: More than a third of adults in the U.S. are currently trying to lose weight. Social media, specifically Pinterest with more than 322 million users, has changed the way people seek health information specifically weight loss. Apple cider vinegar has shown great promise for weight loss in controlled lab settings, yet these claims are widely shared on social media and may not yield the same benefits.
Purpose: This study used directed content analysis to examine how apple cider vinegar weight loss drinks were portrayed on Pinterest, a social media website used to bookmark online content. Methods: Using the search terms, “apple cider vinegar weight loss drinks,” researchers sampled every fifth pin to collect 200 relevant pins. A codebook was developed, pilot tested, and used to code pins.
Results: Of the 200 pins, the majority of pins (66%) positively portrayed the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar drinks for weight loss, and 36% contained images of a drink. Weight loss claims for specific pounds lost were made in 60% of pins, however the majority of those pins did not present a specific number of pounds that will be lost from drinking apple cider vinegar. In addition, a time frame for weight loss promised was only present in 15% of pins. In this sample of pins, 6% of pins had comments.
Conclusions: Social media is a powerful source of health information, however, there is evidence of misleading and potentially dangerous weight loss methods being propagated. This study revealed widespread interest and acceptance of insufficient weight loss drink information.
Keywords: social media, apple cider vinegar, pinterest, content analysis, health information