Should “Influencers” Influence our Eating Habits?
With the rise of social media as the main method of advertisement, many companies turn to the most followed members of this global network to promote their products. Whether this person is a Kardashian, a Hollywood actor or a Tik Tok star that became famous just yesterday, with an impressionable army of followers, the idea of “influencers” becomes a powerful tool for brands. However, could social media be their weapon instead? This is the question to ask, especially, regarding brands that promote nutrition and ‘well-being.’ Two of the most controversial companies are Sugar Bear Hair© and Flat Tummy Co©: brands that have a regular presence on Instagram, where there target audience spends most of their time.
First and foremost, Sugar Bear Hair© is a brand that gained popularity once beauty gurus started promoting the company’s ‘sweet-tasting, vegetarian’ supplements for hair health. For this simple yet high-paying task, all that is needed of the “influencer” is a picture with the product and a platform to promote it on. The ‘gummie’ multivitamin has lengthy ingredient list including a plethora of vitamins and minerals (vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B6, Biotin, Pantothenic acid, Iodine, Zinc, Choline, Inositol) (1). These vitamins all have beneficial effects on skin and scalp health as well as many other metabolic advantages. However, the issue arises in the marketing fashion and the loopholes in FDA approvals. Albeit the product claiming to be FDA approved, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversees vitamin dietary supplements, mainly, but not amalgamations of vitamins in one supplement (2). This means that there is no way of being unequivocally certain of the vitamin doses and which ones are actually in the product. The promotion of this multivitamin is solely based on the script provided by the company itself with no input by an expert in the field. Vitamins are beneficial, but reckless supplementation can have risks! Keep in mind, the FDA suggests that an individual interested in supplements, should be advised by a health professional prior to its use, something that this company nor its endorsers tell their public. The ease with which an Instagram personality can promote a product makes it a dangerous marketing method. This all translates into an unregulated product creating a profit via the exploitation of a young audience.
In addition, there are products promoted in the same way that are even speculated to encourage unhealthy eating habits, one of them being Flat Tummy Tea. The latter is, once again, mainly advertised by the Kardashians; a clan seeming to be the metal to the brand deal magnet. The tea-cleanse bundle includes two types called “Activate Tea” and “Cleanse Tea” each made of their own particular mix of loose tea leaves. The Activate Tea (green tea, peppermint leaf, lemon balm, etc.) is marketed as an energy booster to be taken when you first wake up while the Cleanse Tea (peppermint leaf, senna leaf, dandelion, etc.) is your bedtime drink (3). The mix is said to improve digestion and increase metabolism. Our bodies are built to self-cleanse with a variety of plant-based foods that enhance the process by promoting a favourable gut microbiota (4). However, no singular product can magically detoxify the body which this brand claims to do. Moreover, there have been customer reviews regarding the laxative effect of the product leading to severe diarrhea. This consequence can lead to weight loss, mainly due to the loss of water, which is in no way a healthy method of weight loss (5). But the flat tummy nightmare continues! The company released an ‘Appetite Suppressant Lollipop’ a little over a year ago. This product is, not only 35 calories of ambiguous ingredients, but it promotes very unhealthy eating habits potentially leading to eating disorders (6). To target a young, suggestible audience to a meal-replacing lollipop is irresponsible and reckless, but that can the result of the no-consequence marketing method on social media.
Certainly, there are not just controversial companies that build their brands on social media, but also those that promote a positive and healthy message. However, the issue relies in the easy and unregulated spreading of information by these brands that claim health benefits they are in no position to promise. When it comes to health and nutrition, it is important to remember that a paid advertisement does not have the consumer’s best interest at heart. Social media is a great place to discover new products and programs to ask your health care professionals about!
SugarBearHair. Effective Ingredients. Retrieved from https://www.sugarbearhair.com/collections/popular-vitamins
Commissioner, O. of the. . FDA 101: Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/fda-101-dietary-supplements
Flat Tummy Tea. Retrieved from https://flattummyco.com/products/flattummytea
Medawar, E., Huhn, S., Villringer, A., & Witte, A. V. (2019, September 12). The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6742661/
Steen, J. (2016, July 15). Why We Need To Stop Doing 'Tea Cleanses'. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/05/02/tea-cleanse_n_9825068.html
Flat Tummy Lollipops. Retrieved from https://flattummyco.com/products/flattummylollipops