Communities and Social Media

Influencers on Instagram Play an Important Role in Spreading Dietary Supplement Related Misinformation


Technology advancement is a major aspect of life as we know it today because it is through the diversity that technology has to offer that life is made simple in so many different ways. With technology, there is the era of the internet space which further leads to social media platforms. These are internet-enabled applications that allow people from different parts of the world to be able to connect and share virtual information regardless of distance and time. As such, it is through the use of social media that people are embracing the need for virtual communities. Out of social media came the birth of influencers as people who are in a powerful position to convince their followers on the good or bad of literally anything.

Given this understanding, this paper explores the important role that dietary supplement influencers play as far as the dilemma of spreading misinformation about dieting is concern. It argues that in as much as these influencers have absolute power in promoting an ideal image via their social media presence, they also can misinform their audience on a dietary supplement. Given the kind of power that they have as well as the obsession to have the ideal image, more and more people are accessing this misinformation, sharing it, and thus a cycle of continual misinformation on dietary supplements. To this extent, this paper seeks to address this by looking into the credibility of the information shared, the one for all approach on dietary supplements, and the power of imagery as a negative influence.


Over the years, in as much as there have been several changes to the human way of living life, there are some things that have remained constant. One such thing is the aspect of an ideal body image. As it is evident everywhere, human beings are somewhat obsessed with the idea of having to look or to have a specific body image. This is perhaps as a result of societal configuration as to what is beautiful and acceptable. To this extent, people are often willing to go the extra mile just to fit in with the norms that society is pinning on us. One sure way that has been tested over the years is that of dieting. Dieting has to do a lot with controlled eating in that people choose to eat foods of specific nutrients and or specific amounts to achieve some form of results that will eventually mean that they have the ideal body image (Suciu, 2021).

About the above and the modern world of technology and internet capabilities, there are several ways through which dietary supplements as a program for an ideal image can be obtained. As technology and the use of the internet continue to grow, the era of social media influencers was born. Social media today is a tool that is used daily by millions of people throughout the globe to share if not consuming information with is very critical for any community (Kim & Hastak, 2018). Furthermore, the power of social media continues to grow and Kavada (2018) explains that is it through that power that the movement of social crowds towards various beliefs is encouraged and prosperous. In return, we now have the social media influencers who are as a result of large numbers of people following a specific person’s social media footprint.

According to Bauer (2020), social media influencers are personalities or celebrities that have large social media followers on different platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and the like and as Parks (2010) explains, social media is now a virtual community. It is therefore due to the number of followers that they have that these social media influencers are in a position to contribute towards the perception of different things including dietary supplements. With dietary supplements, there are influencers who today play a critical role in encouraging people to use specific dietary programs.

It has now become adamant for people to follow specific social media personalities as a means of gaining information on dieting. As social media continues to grow and become part of our daily lives, so is the need to follow some of the popular people. Wielki (2020) explains that with a good following, everyone assumes that this person is in a position to know some of the answers to achieve the ideal body image. Most of these influencers are people who have beautiful bodies that everyone else is craving. As such, they make it easier for everyone to try and copy into their lifestyle by willingly sharing information about what they do and eat.

Given the above, it is evident that people are using the information from these dietary supplement influencers to get the kind of results that they are looking for. Under most circumstances, people have given good reviews on some of the supplements that influencers have been using or encourage people to use. This in return gives the influencers a great number of powers as far as influencing the dietary choices of people. However, this is not entirely true in that although dietary supplement influencers on Instagram wield a major deal of power in promoting an ideal body image through their online self-presentation, they also play a key role in spreading dietary supplement-related misinformation within social networking communities.

To further analyse this thesis statement, looking into how social media influencers can spread misinformation, looking into these key areas is important: the credibility of the information, dietary concerns for different people, and the general power of imagery in the era of advanced technology.

Credibility of Information

To begin with, Lofft (2020) explains that some of the information on dietary supplements as shared by social media influencers is misleading because they give such information as facts as opposed to opinions. In today’s world, freedom of speech has become so great that everyone can easily share what they feel and this is a good thing. However, with such power comes great responsibility in that people ought to be extra careful with the kind of information they are willing to share. Partner this with the power of social media which has the potential to reach millions of people through the global and misinformation can easily travel thousands of miles within seconds. Due to being able to influence a lot of people, dietary supplement influencers often fail to give a disclaimer that the information they are sharing is of personal opinion and not facts (Lofft, 2020). As such, people end up believing in half-truths and finding themselves spending so much on dietary supplements or programs that may not work for them.

There is also the issue of social media influencers being used for marketing and advertising gains by dietary-related organisations. As mentioned above, these influencers hold so much power when it comes to convincing people and this is what marketers are looking for when they want to move their products. Due to the power that they have, influencers are now well sought after when it comes to creating public awareness of products, services, and anything that needs to be marketed (Wielki, 2020). In return, they are paid handsomely for the influence they have and by so doing, some of them tend to promote dietary supplements that they do not fully know of. This means that they take on the promotion of a dietary program or supplement as a job thus giving the information they have been asked to share. The downside to this is that some of the information given is misleading from what the program and or supplement can do or deliver.

Another look into how credible the information given by dietary supplement influencers can be misleading is due to lack of evidence. As mentioned above, some of this information lacks in being factual but in addition to this, there is also the aspect of being outdated, transparent, and unbiased. Dietary supplement influencers can easily make the mistake of not doing great research into a diet program or supplement before sharing any information and as such, mislead their audience. Furthermore, Forrest (2019) contributes to this point by explaining influencers can be biased in the information they choose to share by looking to only promote specific diets.

Dietary Concerns for Different People

One of the major mistakes that influencers make that continue to lead to the spread of dietary supplement misinformation is the promotion of one diet for all. We are all built differently, be it genetically, physically, and how bodies metabolise nutrients (Qi, 2017). Influencers make it look so easy in that by choosing to eat specific nutrients, we can all lose weight or gain muscles in search of the perfect image. This is also true in terms of skin and hair care through diet. What influencers do not understand as explained by Qi (2017), is that our genetic composition as well as how our bodies respond to dietary nutrients will differ per person. This is largely because our bodies are all different and function differently. As such, there is no one specific diet supplement that will work the same for everyone. The misinformation in this needs to be addressed to allow people to understand the need for personalised dietary needs.

Furthermore, there is that continual talk of how carbohydrates are bad for you. Foods such as potatoes, wheat, rice, and kinds of pasta amongst others have been tainted as bad and therefore need to be eliminated. Seid and Rosenbaum (2019) in their article explain that there is a growing concern over the number of people who have been misinformed on the dangers related to consuming carbohydrates and fatty nutrients. Influencers now use their platforms to show that a plant-based diet is more ideal than one that has several forms of carbohydrates in it. This could not be further away from the truth given that we all need some form of carbohydrates and fats in our diet. It is from these foods that our bodies can produce the energy that it needs to function (Seid & Rosenbaum, 2019). Therefore, to insinuate that eliminating these nutrients from one’s diet will eventually make the body burn off its fats thus leading to loss of weight is a true misinterpretation of how different nutrients play key roles in our bodies.

Given the above, it is, therefore, true that the public can be misinformed into thinking that the same dietary supplement works the same way for everyone. To further explain this, there is a need to consider how people metabolise nutrients through the foods they eat. Metabolise is the body’s mechanism of breaking down foods in the digestive system to be absorbed as nutrients. It is, therefore, something that we can all do but the problem is that our bodies will either have a high or low metabolism rate and this will eventually have an impact on our body images. By not taking this into account to explain to their audiences that even with the same dietary supplement, different results are to be expected; dietary supplement influencers contribute to the spread of misinformation which can easily lead to health-related consequences.

General Power of Imagery in the Era of Advanced Technology

Technology has allowed us to be in a position to achieve so much in different sectors. With regards to social media and more so with platforms that have to do with a lot of photos sharing such as Instagram, presenting the best image is very critical. And because dietary supplement influencers rely on the images they share, they constantly have to ensure that they are top-notch for their audience to see that what they are saying is true. To achieve the perfect image to share, these influencers rely heavily on great photography as well as the art of photo-shopping. Jennings (2019) explains that there is always the pressure to touch up pictures so that the final image to be present to the public meets the standards of society. By so doing, influencers have been known to give their photos some slimming effect with the perfect skin and even hair all in the name of selling a dieting program or supplement.  Worse off, is that the audience ends up wanting to achieve an ideal body image that is enhanced via technology and does not exist in real life.

There is also the argument that some influencers have achieved the ideal body image not via the diet supplements that they strive to promote regularly but through cosmetic surgery. The cosmetic industry, more so concerning surgeries, is growing on an annual basis simply because people are obsessed with the need to look a specific way (Meeson, 2020). Influencers know too well that to achieve the perfect body that has been depicted on us all by society is near impossible even with proper dieting and exercising and this is due to our genes. Therefore, to have the ultimate power to influence, as it is now considered as a career path, some influencers choose to have surgeries and use the achieved results to market dietary supplements and dietary opinions and this is quite misleading.

Lastly, there is the understanding of proper photo taking with regards to lighting, posture, and positioning. Benwell (n.d.) explains that ever since the Instagram hash-tag #Instagram vs. Reality begun to trend, it is only then that people are starting to become aware that influencers are just ordinary people with ordinary bodies. The only advantage they have is the knowledge on how to pose, use light and take photos that make their bodies appear ideal. There is also the use of professional photographers who know all about these facts. Therefore, by posting pictures that capture their bodies at the best postures, dietary supplement influencers can play an important role in misinforming their audience by making it look that their bodies are as a result of using the diets while in actual reality this will never be the case.

Counter Argument

A counter-argument for all this will be to acknowledge that there are those dietary supplement influencers who have made it mandatory to not only give evidence-based information but to work with professionals in this particular field. These influencers have come to the understanding that misinformation can easily be accessed through the internet but also through them, who have a large following. As such, Benwell (n.d.) explains that social media influencers understand that they are in a position to motivate and empower people’s choices on different things and therefore have to be aware of what they are asking their audiences to use or do.


In conclusion, it is important to note that dietary supplement influencers have power in promoting an ideal image through their various social media platforms but also, it is important to understand just how they too can spread misinformation. They can do the latter from the ability to give information whose credibility is questionable to the poor understanding or acknowledgement of how individual bodies react differently to diets and also the fact that they can use misleading images to pursue their audience. Dietary supplement influencers are therefore in a position to misinform thus the need for them and their audience to be more aware of the information they choose to share and consume. By choosing to work with professional dietitians and or ensure that the information they give is not misleading by having adequate evident can help with this issue of misinforming the public. Furthermore, there is the need for their audience to accept that not all information they consume from the influencers is entirely true thus they too have the responsibility of verifying such information beforehand. This is something this article has not addressed thus a limitation to it with room for future research on the issue.

Social media platforms can be viewed as virtual communities where people from different ethnicities and global regions come together to share and consume various information. It is through the ability to connect people in different places that social media gains its power from and it is the same power that is then transferred to diet supplement influencers and other forms of social media influencers. In such a connected web of people and with the increased freedom of speech, it becomes quite easy for misinformation as opposed to the truth to reach the millions of people who use social media daily. As such, the need to educate the public on the potential misinformation they are getting from their influencers through social networking communities becomes important in trying to curb and control the spread of such information. In conclusion, we all have a role to play but due to the influence they have on the great population of social media users who follow their lives daily, dietary supplement influencers ought to be more aware of the role they play in spreading misinformation thus be held accountable where applicable.


Bauer, J.K. (2020). The effects of Instagram influencers and appearance comparisons on body appreciation, internalization of beauty ideals and self-esteem in women. PDX Scholar.

Benwell, L. (n.d.). Body image and social media: The real impact “Instagram Vs Reality” posts have on our mental health. Leedsbeckett.–the-real-impact–instagram-vs–reality–posts-have-on-our-mental-health/index.html

Forrest, A. (2019). Social media influencers are dishing out false nutrition and weight loss advice 90% of the time. Business Insider.

Jennings, R. (2019). Facetune and the internet’s endless pursuit of physical perfection. Vox.

Kavada, A. (2018). The intersection between online crowds and social movements in contemporary activism. The Routledge companion to media and activism.

Kim, J., & Hastak, M. (2018). Social network analysis: Characteristics of online social networks after a disaster. International Journal of Information Management38(1), 86-96.

Lofft, Z. (2020). When social media met nutrition: How influencers spread misinformation, and why we believe them. Health Science Inquiry11(1), 56-61.

Meeson, S. (2020). Why plastic-surgery demand is booming amid lockdown. BBC.

Parks, M. R. (2011). Social network sites as virtual communities. A networked self: Identity, community, and culture on social network sites, 105-123.

Qi, L. (2014). Gene–diet interaction and weight loss. Current opinion in lipidology25(1), 27.

Suciu, P. (2021). Social media can increase risk of eating disorders and negative body images. Forbes.

Wielki, J. (2020). Analysis of the Role of Digital Influencers and Their Impact on the Functioning of the Contemporary On-Line Promotional System and Its Sustainable Development. Sustainability12(17), 7138.

16 thoughts on “Influencers on Instagram Play an Important Role in Spreading Dietary Supplement Related Misinformation

  1. Hey Marwah!

    This was such an interesting and well-written piece to read. It is crazy to see how much social media influencers impact their audience. Especially when it comes to important topics such as health and fitness, it is vital to make sure that they are spreading well-researched and evidence-based advice. But in reality, a lot of influencers spread a lot of misinformation within their community. I like how you talked about lots of misconceptions of specific food groups. A lot of people tend to believe that if they cut carbs out of their diet, it will help them lose weight faster. In some cases, it might but in reality, our body needs carbohydrates as fuel to have energy throughout the day.

    Overall, I really enjoyed reading your paper and have learned quite a lot, thanks!

  2. Hello Marwah,
    I hope you are doing good.

    I’m glad that you talked on this topic since this is everywhere. We are inundated with lies and false promises everywhere. Books, TV advertisements, cooking shows and more are all selling something. While nothing in life is free, you have to look at and follow the money trail. As consumers, we are often given incomplete, misinterpreted or simplified information. We tend to get our updates from the mainstream media and rarely read the actual studies. Influencers has been taking advantage of this as there are a lot of individuals who will be desperate enough to believe and pay big money for something.

    I strongly agree with you when you said that imagery has power. I believe this is because we are visual creatures. The moment we see them having nice physiques and selling something, we are instantly attracted and may also obsess over them.

    However, do you think social pressure plays a big role here? For example people want to the same as their friends and families are doing?

  3. Hi Marwah,
    I read your paper and I’m glad that I did. The amount of ads based on dieting plans on social media platform newsfeeds are more than needed for me. On every five to ten post, there should be one which suggest me that I should lose weight or adopt a healthy lifestyle or to take a specific unbeatable supplement. Going into more details as you mentioned, these plans are only made for specific body types. Users are being put in identity boxes in this situation based on influencers’ body ideals. These plans are made without any acknowledgement to a person’s current health situation; for instance, if they are diabetic or have high blood pressure issues.
    How do you think good changes can be made? Can influencers help promote them despite not using the supplements themselves?

  4. Hi Marwah,

    Thank you for sharing your very interesting and well researched paper. You write really well and as someone who is easliy influenced (no pun intended haha), I was more than a little horrified at the information you shared. I loved your line ‘the power of imagery as a negative influence’ because I think it is irrefutably true in the digital era. And also quite ironic given that these ‘supplements’ and dietry advice in general are supposedly intended to be ‘positive’ and allow for better health. The reality is anything but positive and the ‘look at me’ imagery shared by certain influencers which emphasise body standards unrealistic to the majority of people is certainly harmful. Especially as the digital demographic seems to get younger and younger.
    I think the issue goes deeper than imagery however and a lot has to do with a sense of trust between audience and infulencer. There is this disclaimer that is bandied about whereby they proclaim ‘ I’m not a health professional BUT this product/diet etc really worked for me’ which automatically removes any sense of responsibility from the influencer themselves but still allows for misinformation to be be freely given and circulated and because the audience likes and trusts this influencer they take this opinion in the same way they would take a reccomendation from a friend.
    It is of course clever marketing and the reason why influencers get paid such huge amounts of money to endorse products/create ads etc but in the quick transition from traditional advertising to influencer based ads I think people have forgotten that in reality this person is a stranger to them and the notion of trust is superficial at best.
    Anyway I could go on forever because this is such an interesting topic and I am really glad you decided to write about it! I learnt a lot from your paper and definitly re adressed my perceptions of health and imagery.

  5. Hi Marwah,

    An interesting paper that discusses quite a hot topic on social media these days. Health and fitness is such a massive area that is on social media with many social media influencers becoming influences due to their fitness and health tips and tricks and also because they are deemed as good looking and an ideal person that someone would like to replicate.

    In regards to people being mislead by social media influencers, do you think this is more the influencers fault or the users fault? I think that when looking at an influencers content it always needs to be taken with a grain of salt as they are doing it for a financial benefit and wanting to boost their own profile and influence status. Any person who is interested in undertaking a different fitness program or diet should do thorough research by themselves and with professionals, because at the end of the day a lot of influencers millions blindly follow have no qualifications relating to what they are trying to influence people on.


  6. Hi Marwah,
    This was an insightful read! I agree with all of what you say, and definitely think that misinformation is being spread about dieting. It is tragic, too, as it (whether actively or inadvertently) targets already vulnerable people who might have body-image issues or low self-confidence/esteem. This can, ultimately, make misinformation even more dangerous! So, I thought I’d just extend upon your argument with an example I used in my own paper:
    I talked a little about a sub-culture that arose throughout social media platforms in the last decade; “pro-ana” and “pro-mia”. These were/are an online sphere of pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia content which, of course, attracted many young women with eating disorders (Borzekowski et al, 2011). Unfortunately this movement actually SUPPORTED anorexia and bulimia, claiming they were legitimate diets with genuine dietary benefits (Borzekowski et al, 2011)! They even promoted sickly-thin models as “thinspiration” and outlined ways in which their followers could hide their “diets” from unsupportive family and friends, not to mention out-right encourage self-inflicted vomiting and starvation (Borzekowski et all, 2011). I just thought this was a horrifying example of social media spreading dangerous information that eating-disorders are healthy diets!
    Do you think ANYONE can be harmed because of this (and similar) spreading of misinformation regarding diets, or just already vulnerable people?
    Loved the paper!

    Borzekowski, D., Schenk, S., Wilson, J., & Peebles, R. (2011). E-ana and e-mia: A content analysis of pro-eating disorder web sites. American Journal of Public Health, 100(8), 1525-1534.

  7. Hi Marwah,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your paper. As an avid user of social media who’s following a large number of celebrities and influencers on various platforms, the issues you’ve addressed are a common occurrence which can easily be spotted. It’s amazing to see the amount of power influencers can have over their audience, to a point where their purchasing decision can be alter based on the information provided by the influencer, or simply due to their physical image. As you mentioned earlier, credibility of information is not one which can be guaranteed, however, we still continue to believe their opinion whether it’s biased or not… since they have a large group of following. An interesting point which could be added to your paper is how the large range of misinformation can often overshadow influencers who’re more relatable and genuine about the products they’re promoting.

    1. Hi Bethani,

      Thank you for your kind words, and I think that the point you have stated is valid. It is a real issue refer to the marketer responsibility in providing extensive information about the promotional product as well as
      it refers to the lack of preparation and communication between marketers and influencer. Ultimately, influencers choose the career and take on the obligations and risks that come with it, but marketers should recognize the hard work that legitimate, credible influencers do and not take advantage of it as best they can.

      Best regards

  8. Hey Marwah,
    As someone who has definitely given into the dietary & supplement advice from influencers and have been misinformed myself I was really interested and glad you decided to write your paper on this particular topic. I feel like this topic needs to be spoken about more as it just gives people the wrong impression and they could potentially fall into the trap of feeling conscious of their body image because they are not able to lose weight despite following the dietary information provided by the influeners.

    The number of posts I’ve come across on Instagram promoting supplements and the foods you ‘should’ and ‘should not’ eat really frustrates me and I agree with you on how influencers should back up their claims with evidence. I also feel as though their followers should educate themselves on particular supplements in order to make informed choices for themselves as opposed to blindly believing the information given out by their ‘favorite’ influencers.

    Overall, this was a very insightful and interesting paper to read and I’m glad you decided to write about this!

    1. Hi Saranya,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my paper. It is unfortunately sad to know that you are one of many cases that got fake advice from such an unqualified influencer. As you have mentioned, it would be great if people took the time to inform and educate themselves towards any weight loss program, advice, or product they see online, as most of the time, it does not have only positive impacts.
      Thank you again for having a look at my paper and for sharing your views.
      have a nice day 🙂

  9. Marwah, I’m so glad you chose to write about this topic. I think it’s a super important talking point, and I’m so frustrated by influencers who use their platforms to spread misinformation, and potentially contribute to body image issues. With a large social media following comes a lot of responsibility, these people are capable of influencing the way people think, and if they choose to share misinformation many of their followers will take it at face value. The amount of times I’ve seen influencers endorsing weight loss products which promise to make you lose x amount of weight in a week is ridiculous. Every individual is different, there is absolutely no way to assert that everyone will have the same experience when using those products. These endorsements feed into our cultural obsession with weight loss/being skinnier, and contribute to the pressure people feel to constantly be focusing on “improving” their body. When you add cosmetic surgery into the equation as you mentioned, it all becomes even more unrealistic and false.

    1. Hi Silas

      Thank you for your kind response and it is a great thing that we feel the same way. Yes, influencer ought to be extra careful with the kind of information they are willing to share particularly when their fans under 20 years of age and also they should expose the product that they personally use for the benefit of their followers, if they don’t they aren’t really influencers, just artists who simply do the work for which they are paid at the detriment of the innocent followers who idolized the influencer, which is manipulative.


  10. Hey Alarfaj,

    I’m really pleased to see this topic being explored in the conference, as I too have experienced giving in to dietary & supplement advice from influencers that has clearly not been backed up with any credible research. It is so easy to see the influence that these people have on their followers and the world, as they tend to be “perfect” in their followers’ eyes, and therefore the products must work, right?

    I believe this is a major problem to do with social media and influencing that is not spoken on enough, and I applaud you for arguing your points on a concerning fact.


    1. Hello Scout,

      Thanks for taking the time and reading my paper. Yes, indeed, many of them endorsing various products without paying particular attention, to the side effect they can have on people, which is the sad reality of our world. Therefore, people should spend more time educating themselves, doing their own researches about what they find on the social platforms, knowing how far what is being exposed by influencers are genuine.

      Thanks again
      I will shortly have a look at your paper.
      Take care and stay safe


  11. Hi Alarfaj,

    I really like your paper about the spread of dietary supplement misinformation- I spoke about a similar topic in my paper. I like that you have discussed the fact that one diet doesn’t fit all and how the perception of body image on the internet can be misleading. I agree with your statements and like that you have acknowledged the potential for a positive and scientifically correct information sharing community if done correctly with experts. Perhaps you could have discussed an example of the efforts of professionals online to rectify these false claims and spread correct diet-related information? Have there been such efforts? Just a thought.

    1. Hello Katrina,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your point of view, regarding my paper. I will surely read your paper,

      Yes, I definitely agree it would be great to include some real-life examples to support my argument.

      Thank you again for reading my paper and leaving such thought-provoking questions. I really appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *