08/25/2013 11:20 am ET

Twitter Could Shed Light On Dietary Habits, Reasons For Eating


There's a whole slew of reasons why we eat something. Convenience is a factor, for sure. Hunger, of course, is another. And then there's always the consideration of what's cheap. But now, researchers have shown that Twitter, of all things, can be a useful tool in helping us understand the relationship between eating behaviors and reasons for eating.

University of Arizona researchers asked 50 study participants, between ages 18 and 30, to tweet everything that they ate for three days, along with a hashtag to indicate the type of food they were eating and why they were eating it. (For instance: "Cheeseburger between classes at the Student Union #protein #convenience.")

By doing this, researchers were able to make a visual representation of all the foods the study participants were eating, in the context of why they were eating them. This "allowed us to really see that there are, in fact, relationships, and those relationships do seem to align with the ones in the literature, which shows that convenience and cost are among the main motivators" for consuming food, study researcher Melanie Hingle, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the university, said in a statement.

"It's good to raise awareness about your habits since a lot of eating behavior is unconscious or really habitual," Hingle added. "You tend to get in your groove and not get out of it, so this kind of shakes that up and makes you think about what's influencing you. It can help you develop new habits or just become aware of the ones that are not doing you any good."

The study is published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Our eating habits aren't the only things Twitter can shed some light on. Check out the slideshow below for more things the social media site can tell us about our health:



What Twitter Tells Us About Health