Overweight bloggers aren’t considered reliable by people seeking advice about healthy eating, a new study finds.
The study included 230 volunteers who were shown blogs that included photos of the same 10 meals and nutritional information about them, as well as a thumbnail photo of the blog author.
Participants were divided into two groups and saw photos of the same blogger either before or after weight loss.
When asked to rate how healthy the meals were, the participants believed a meal was less healthy when it was accompanied by the photo of the blogger when she was overweight than when the same meal was presented with the photo of the blogger after shedding those excess pounds.
The study was published recently in the journal Health Communication.
“People appear to assume that if a heavier person is recommending food, it is probably richer and less healthy,” study author Jonathon Schuldt, an assistant professor of communication at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said in a university news release.
The findings are important because many Americans seek health information online.
“When we search for health information online, there are a lot of related cues that can bias our perceptions in ways that we may not be consciously aware of,” Schuldt said.
“Awareness of these biases could help us better navigate health information online,” and could also help people “avoid being swayed by nutritional information simply because it is posted by someone who is thin rather than heavy,” he added.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about evaluating health information.