Social media and children's and adolescents’ diets - a systematic review of the underlying social and physiological mechanisms

Elida Sina*, Daniel Boakye, Lara Christianson, Wolfgang Ahrens, Antje Hebestreit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The association between social media (SM) and children's and adolescents’ diet is poorly understood. This systematic literature review aims to explore the role of SM in children's and adolescents’ diets and related behaviors, considering also the underlying mechanisms. We searched Medline, Scopus, and CINAHL (2008–December 2021) for studies assessing the relation of SM exposure with food intake, food preference, dietary behaviors, and the underlying mechanisms (e.g., brain activation to digital food images—as proxy for SM food images) among healthy children and adolescents aged 2–18 y. A total of 35 articles were included. Of 4 studies, 1 found that exposure to peers’ videos on healthy eating, but not SM influencers’, increased vegetable intake. Most studies reported that SM was associated with skipping breakfast, increased intake of unhealthy snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages, and lower fruit and vegetable intake, independent of age. Children and adolescents exposed to unhealthy compared with healthy digital food images showed increased brain response in reward- and attention-related regions. The mechanisms underpinning the abovementioned associations were 1) physiological (appetitive state, increased neural response to portion size and energy density of food depicted) and 2) social (food advertising via SM influencers and peers). SM exposure leads to unfavorable eating patterns both in children and adolescents. The identified mechanisms may help tailor future health interventions. Downregulating SM advertising and limiting SM exposure to children and adolescents may improve food intake and subsequent health outcomes. The protocol of this review was registered in PROSPERO as CRD42020213977 (
Original languageEnglish
Article numbernmac018
Pages (from-to)913-937
Number of pages25
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number3
Early online date26 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • eating habits
  • fmri
  • food advertising
  • social media
  • instagram
  • facebook
  • neural activity
  • influencer marketing
  • children
  • adolescents


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