Millions of TikTok users around the globe are exposed to an “unrealistic and inaccurate” picture of food, nutrition and health, latest research shows.
Experts have highlighted the issue after examining around 1,000 videos captioned with hashtags relating to food or fitness. Each hashtag that was analysed had received a billion views.
They discovered that most of the content shared on the social media platform regarding food and nutrition was not evidence-based and posted by ordinary influencers rather than specialist researchers.
Primary author Dr Lizzy Pope said: “Each day, millions of teens and young adults are being fed content on TikTok that paints a very unrealistic and inaccurate picture of food, nutrition and health.
“Getting stuck in weight loss TikTok can be a really tough environment, especially for the main users of the platform, who are young people.”
TikTok is most commonly used by younger people, with more than half of the users aged between 16 and 24.
Previous research also shows that young people between the ages of 12 and 25 are most at risk of developing an eating disorder.
In addition, prior studies have reported that three per cent of females will develop an eating disorder during their lifetime.
“Young people may develop warped views of health and how to treat their body because of the information being spread on TikTok,” said Dr Pope.
The hashtags that were examined during the study included #fatloss, #PlusSize, #WhatIEatInADay, #MealPrep and #WeightLoss.
TikTok videos on nutrition reviewed included influencers documenting their daily food intake, sharing their favourite recipes and providing viewers with ways they can lose weight.
Joint author Dr Marisa Minadeo said: “The fact that billions of people were viewing content about weight on the internet says a lot about the role diet culture plays in our society.”
According to Dr Hope and other nutritionists, weight is not the most important matter in a person’s health.
The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
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