If Americans eat what they tweet, a new series of maps explains why certain U.S. states have a higher percentage of obese people than others.
WHAT THE MOST OBESE US STATES TWEET ABOUT MOST
Mississippi: cake, eating
West Virginia: cookies, watching TV
Louisiana: chocolate, eating
Arkansas: chocolate, eating
Oklahoma: chocolate, running
For eight months, University of Arizona researchers analyzed tweets about food and exercise on the social networking site Twitter and found they could predict certain population characteristics from that data.
“Our diets reflect our identities. The food we eat is influenced by our lifestyles, habits, upbringing, cultural and family heritage,” the researchers wrote. “In addition to reflecting our current selves, our diets also shape who we will be, by impacting our health and well-being.”
The team developed what it calls a Lexicocalorimeter, an interactive, online tool for measuring the “caloric content” of social media. Researchers extracted food and activity-related tweets and plugged them into the Lexicocalorimeter. They reportedly found that their conclusions correlate with known public health statistics for each state.
Their study found that states that tweeted most about high-calorie unhealthy foods, such as bacon, grits and cake, are the worst ranked when it comes to fitness. Those states are also more likely to tweet about eating and watching TV.
For example, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Kentucky, have all ranked in the top ten when it comes to the most obese states. Their Twitter feeds might provide a window into why this is the case.
WHAT HEALTHIEST US STATES TWEET ABOUT MOST
Colorado: noodles, running
Montana: peanut butter, skiing
California: tomatoes, dancing
Massachusetts: apples, walking
Idaho: pasta, biking
In Mississippi, the fattest state in the nation with an obesity rate of 35.2 percent, the most talked about food on Twitter is cake and the top activity mentioned is eating.
West Virginians, who have a state obesity rate of 34.3 percent, tweet more about cookies than any other food and their top activity activity appears to be watching TV.
The Twitter feed of Louisiana residents, where 33.2 percent of residents are obese, suggests they are partial to chocolate candy and eating.
In Colorado, one of the healthiest states in the union where about 1 in 5 people (20.3 percent) is obese, noodles and running top the Twitter feed. Meanwhile Montana, with a 23.5 obesity rate, is into peanut butter and skiing.
Ultimately, the researchers expect their conclusions to help in a variety of ways, including with marketing and when it comes to improving public health.