You are what you eat, the saying goes, but a new study suggests you are what you tweet. A team of university researchers looked at Twitter users’ most beloved foods, after sampling 80 million geotagged tweets from across the United States, and found some fascinating connections between the foods we talk about most and our personal health.
As the study, conducted by the University of Utah College of Health, discovered, the diet staple that’s tweeted about most is probably the one you most rely on to start your day. That’s right: Coffee topped the list as the most popular food (although it's technically a beverage) on Twitter.
While a cup of joe arguably counts as both a healthy superfood and a vice, the rest of the top 10—including beer at #2 and pizza at #3 —seems to suggest that the Twitterati aren’t exactly winning any nutritious-eating awards. (In fact, the only food on the list that experts would classify as healthy is “chicken” at #7; and let’s be real, those tweets were likely more focused on deep-fried drumsticks than grilled, skinless breast meat.)
What's more important, though, is that the study’s authors found a telling correlation between the content of a community’s tweets and local residents’ overall well-being. Geographic areas where Twitter users express more positive sentiments about the healthy foods they eat experience better overall health. The same goes for areas where people tweet more frequently about physical activities like walking, dancing and running.
The idea that what we tweet reveals what we eat—and consequently how healthy we are—might sound obvious. But the findings dig deeper, and could have lasting implications for communities around the U.S. “Our data could be telling us that certain neighborhoods have fewer resources to support healthy diets,” says Quynh Nguyen, Ph.D., a University of Utah College of Health assistant professor. “ Adds study senior author Ming Wen, Ph.D., “This is a promising new, cost-effective method for studying the social and environmental influences on health.” In other words, maybe your Twitter account will one day replace your Fitbit.
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