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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

Analysing Dietary Patterns, Preferences and Knowledge Using Social Media


Traditional methods for nutritional surveys are well validated and predominately use interview-led data collection methods and paper food diaries to produce good quality data about population dietary patterns or nutrient intakes. While these data are useful in describing dietary differences between various age and socioeconomic groups, they are labour-intensive, costly and rarely collect data about the level of nutrition knowledge or food preferences; two factors shown to be related to better dietary patterns. There is political and societal impetus in the UK to improve the population’s diet in order to prevent obesity-related health problems; particularly among women of childbearing age whose diet influences the short and long-term health of their children. Identifying alternative datasets that could be used to complement traditional nutritional surveys may help to design targeted interventions to improve dietary behaviours. Social media could provide a potential new dataset for tracking dietary patterns, dietary preferences, and nutrition knowledge; with 61% of adults using social networking of some kind, and 79% of those using it daily. This study aimed to i) understand how social media has been used to describe patterns of health behaviour and ii) test whether an online application can be used to measure dietary patterns, food preferences and nutrition knowledge from social media profiles. We have commenced a systematic literature review to achieve the first aim, and have developed a research tool to test the second aim.


Principle Investigator: Dr Chris Phethean, ECS, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering

Co-Investigator: Dr Christina Vogel, Human Development and Health

Co-Investigator: Dan Penn-Newman

Co-Investigator: Dr Mark Gatenby, Southampton Business School

Co-Investigator: Alessandro Piscopo, ECS, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering


Final report.


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