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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 115-116

How heart (un)healthy is the Facebook diet?

1 Shifa College of Medicine, Islamabad, Pakistan
2 Islamic International Medical and Dental College, Islamabad, Pakistan
3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Abottabad International Medical College, Abottabad, Pakistan

Date of Web Publication22-Sep-2012

Correspondence Address:
Asfandyar K Niazi
Shifa College of Medicine, Pitras Bukhari Road, H-8/4, Islamabad
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2278-019X.101303

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How to cite this article:
Niazi AK, Niazi SK, Islam A, Assad S, Qadeer K, Hiba N. How heart (un)healthy is the Facebook diet?. J Med Nutr Nutraceut 2012;1:115-6

How to cite this URL:
Niazi AK, Niazi SK, Islam A, Assad S, Qadeer K, Hiba N. How heart (un)healthy is the Facebook diet?. J Med Nutr Nutraceut [serial online] 2012 [cited 2024 Mar 2];1:115-6. Available from: http://www.jmnn.org/text.asp?2012/1/2/115/101303

With the introduction of the popular social networking website Facebook, society as a whole entered a new era of communication. Estimates show that 72% of, 18- to 29-year-olds, internet users use social networking websites and 45% use these websites daily. [1],[2] Facebook is the largest social networking website and has almost 500 million users. [2] Whether Facebook is an addiction or not is debatable, however it is well-known that people are spending increasing amounts of time on this website. The effects of this excessive Facebook use on diet remain unknown. We hypothesize that the psychological stress due to peer pressure and the sedentary lifestyle associated with the excessive use of Facebook might lead to an unhealthy diet.

  Materials and Methods Top

This is a pilot study conducted on 167 Facebook users to assess whether there is a correlation between the hours spent on using Facebook and the type of diet taken. The participants of this study had been using Facebook for at least 6 months daily and without deactivating their profiles. The recruitment of study participants' age was limited to 18-35 years. The age bracket was placed because we hypothesized that different psychological factors may prevail in different age groups. The lower limit of the age bracket was also necessary to ensure the proper understanding of the questionnaire by the subjects. Users with any significant medical disorder leading them to over- or under-eat and those on any diet prescribed by a medical practitioner were excluded. For the sake of narrowing the subject pool and since there was a potential risk of undiagnosed eating disorders unrelated to Facebook usage in this population, people with Body Mass Indices (BMI)18.5 or 30 were also excluded.

MEDFICTS assessment questionnaire, prepared by the American Heart Association to identify dietary risk factors for heart diseases in otherwise healthy individuals, was used to assess the diet of participants .[3],[4] MEDFICTS stands for Meat, Eggs, Dairy, Fried foods, fats In baked goods, Convenience foods, fats added at the Table, and Snacks. The questionnaire uses the weekly number of consumption and the serving size of eight categories of food to calculate a total number of points; with higher points correlating with more significant risk of heart diseases. A healthy diet earns points below 70 and an unhealthy diet earns points greater than 70.

Participants were also enquired regarding the average time daily spent on Facebook and of that amount, the time spent at night (between 8 pm and 8 am). The MEDFICTS score was correlated with this time data. The data was analyzed using SPSS version 17.0.

  Results Top

The results of this study are also provided in [Table 1]. Of the 167 participants included in this study, 87 (52.1%) were males and 80 (47.9%) were females. The mean age of the participants was 22.7 years (SD ± 3.54). The mean daily Facebook usage was 3.57 hours (SD ± 1.80, 95% CI 3.29-3.85) with a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 9 hours. The mean Facebook usage at night was 2.31 hours (SD ± 1.25, 95% CI 2.11-2.50) with a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 7 hours. The mean MEDFICTS score was 71.7 (SD ± 9.78, 95% CI 70.20-73.19) which correlates with a heart unhealthy diet.
Table 1: Results of the study. Number of hours spent by the participants on Facebook and their mean MEDFICTS score

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To check whether greater amounts of time spent on Facebook correlate with a higher MEDFICTS score, a Pearson correlation test was performed. The Pearson correlation between the number of hours daily spent on Facebook and the MEDFICTS score showed a correlation coefficient of 0.489 with a significance of 0.000. The test was repeated with the number of hours spent on Facebook at night and the MEDFICTS score. The Pearson coefficient came out to be 0.414 with a significance of 0.000. Similar tests performed with age and sex of the participants did not reveal any statistically significant correlation.

A Chi Square test was also performed for the hours spent daily (P value 0.000, likelihood ratio 0.630) and the hours spent at night on Facebook (P value 0.000, likelihood ratio 0.924).

  Discussion Top

This study shows that the number of hours spent on Facebook at night and the total number of hours spent correlate significantly with a higher score on MEDFICTS. We did not evaluate whether this correlation was solely due to a sedentary lifestyle or other factors. The time spent on Facebook at night might also disturb the natural circadian rhythm, which may lead to altered eating patterns. [5] This study by no means suggests that Facebook is a hazard to health. Rather it points out the fact that the excessive use of Facebook may lead to dietary adverse effects.

Since this was a pilot study, the sample size is too small to make any conclusive inferences. However this study points out a potential problem toward which efforts are warranted. The study is also limited by the fact that all age brackets were not taken into consideration. Some other factors such as psychological factors arising due to causes unrelated to Facebook might have affected the results. In addition, our study did not correlate Facebook use with specific nutritional deficiencies or BMI which might be better indicators of dietary abnormalities. Our study focused on self-reported dietary assessment, which may suffer from inaccuracy on the part of the participant.

  Conclusion Top

This study shows that the number of hours spent on Facebook correlate with a higher MEDFICTS score, which is a risk factor for cardiac diseases. The MEDFICTS score also correlates with the number of hours spent on Facebook during the night, but less significantly so. Further research on larger scale with more objectively defined criteria is needed to asses the dietary effects of this website. Excessive use of this website leading to a sedentary lifestyle or psychological changes should be checked. Only after the psychological effects of Facebook have been evaluated can we conclusively state whether this website is stressful or otherwise.

  References Top

1.Lenhart A, Purcell K, Smith A, Zickuhr K. Social Media and Young Adults. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Available from: http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2010/PIP_Social_Media_and_Young_Adults_Report_Final_with_toplines.pdf. [Last Accessed on 2012 Mar 18].  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Ramo DE, Prochaska JJ. Broad reach and targeted recruitment using facebook for an online Survey of young adult substance use. J Med Internet Res 2012;14:e28.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Krauss RM, Eckel RH, Howard B, Appel LJ, Daniels SR, Deckelbaum RJ, et al. AHA Dietary Guidelines- Revision 2000: A statement for healthcare professionals from the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association. Circulation 2000;102:2284-99.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Mochari H, Gao Q, Mosca L. Validation of the MEDFICTS dietary assessment Questionnaire in a diverse population. J Am Diet Assoc 2008;108:817-22.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Kalra S, Agrawal S, Sahay M. The reno-pineal axis: A novel role for melatonin. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2012;16:192-4.  Back to cited text no. 5


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