Comfort Foods and Community Connectedness: Investigating Diet Change during COVID-19 Using YouTube Videos on Twitter


  • Yelena Mejova ISI Foundation
  • Lydia Manikonda Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute



Web and Social Media, Measuring predictability of real world phenomena based on social media, e.g., spanning politics, finance, and health, Qualitative and quantitative studies of social media


Unprecedented lockdowns at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically changed the routines of millions of people, potentially impacting important health-related behaviors. In this study, we use YouTube videos embedded in tweets about diet, exercise and fitness posted before and during COVID-19 to investigate the influence of the pandemic lockdowns on diet and nutrition. In particular, we examine the nutritional profile of the foods mentioned in the transcript, description and title of each video in terms of six macronutrients (protein, energy, fat, sodium, sugar, and saturated fat). These macronutrient values were further linked to demographics to assess if there are specific effects on those potentially having insufficient access to healthy sources of food. Interrupted time series analysis revealed a considerable shift in the aggregated macronutrient scores before and during COVID-19. In particular, whereas areas with lower incomes showed decrease in energy, fat, and saturated fat, those with higher percentage of African Americans showed an elevation in sodium. Word2Vec word similarities and odds ratio analysis suggested a shift from popular diets and lifestyle bloggers before the lockdowns to the interest in a variety of healthy foods, communal sharing of quick and easy recipes, as well as a new emphasis on comfort foods. To the best of our knowledge, this work is novel in terms of linking attention signals in tweets, content of videos, their nutrients profile, and aggregate demographics of the users. The insights made possible by this combination of resources are important for monitoring the secondary health effects of social distancing, and informing social programs designed to alleviate these effects.




How to Cite

Mejova, Y., & Manikonda, L. (2023). Comfort Foods and Community Connectedness: Investigating Diet Change during COVID-19 Using YouTube Videos on Twitter. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 17(1), 602-613.