Are TikTok Diet Trends Helpful Or Dangerous? We Answer Here
While TikTok offers many helpful tips and is the birthplace of many trends, the validity and safety of the various fads and trends often go unquestioned. In this article, we aim to look at the positive and negative impacts of popular TikTok diet trends and explain the science behind their dangers or benefits.
TikTok Trend – Lettice Water
The “lettuce water” trend promises enhanced sleep quality. Users boil romaine lettuce in water and consume the resulting liquid before bedtime. A study by Hyo-Won Lim et al., published in the Biology and Pharmacy Bulletin in 2019, suggests that green romaine lettuce might have sleep-enhancing properties in rodents. The study points to compounds like lactucin and lactucopicrin, which interact with the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain, known to induce sleepiness. While the trend is not harmful, the scientific evidence supporting its efficacy in humans is lacking. Sleep hygiene practices like maintaining a regular sleep schedule and reducing screen time before bed are more proven methods for improving sleep. While some trends may be based on partial medical studies, they should not replace medical advice.
TikTok Trend – Lemon Coffee
The Lemon Coffee trend involves adding lemon juice to coffee and claims to promote weight loss, boost metabolism, improve digestion, and increase energy. The notion that a single drink can significantly impact weight loss is largely debunked by experts as a “magic pill” myth. While coffee contains caffeine that can increase alertness, the lemon’s contribution to energy or metabolism is minimal and not supported by scientific evidence. Lemon coffee is neither harmful nor the miracle solution it’s often presented to be. The trend may offer a unique taste experience, but it doesn’t replace the benefits of a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and regular physical activity for achieving sustainable health and wellness.
TikTok Trend – Ginger Shots
The Ginger Shots trend involves consuming a concentrated shot of ginger juice, often mixed with lemon juice and cayenne pepper, as a way to boost gut health and kickstart your day. Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and has been used for centuries to help with digestive issues. Coconut water provides essential electrolytes, and cayenne pepper is thought to boost metabolism.
However, consuming these ingredients in concentrated form doesn’t necessarily amplify their benefits and may even cause digestive distress for some individuals. While ginger shots can be a supportive addition to a balanced lifestyle, they are not a magic bullet for health. The key to wellness lies in a balanced diet, stress management, quality sleep, and regular physical activity. Ginger shots may offer some health benefits, but they should be integrated into a broader, scientifically supported health regimen.
TikTok Trend – Internal Shower Drink
The “Internal Shower Drink” is a concoction made from water, chia seeds, and a squirt of lemon juice. It’s claimed to be a natural remedy for relieving constipation, especially during travel. Chia seeds are rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and quality protein, which can contribute to easing digestion. The high fiber content may help alleviate constipation by adding bulk to the stool. Lemon juice is often added for taste and contains dietary fiber and water, which can support healthy digestion when included as part of a regular diet.
While the drink is healthy due to its high fiber content, there’s no strong scientific evidence to support its claim as a magic remedy for constipation. The potential relief might stem from the increase in fluid and fiber intake, which are known contributors to good digestive health. However, individual digestive systems react differently, and it’s best to consult a healthcare professional for recurring digestive issues.
TikTok Trend – Keto and Intermittent Fasting
Keto (Ketogenic Diet) and Intermittent Fasting are two popular diet trends that have gained traction on social media platforms like TikTok. The Keto diet focuses on high-fat, low-carbohydrate intake to induce ketosis, a metabolic state where the body burns fat for energy. Intermittent Fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, with various protocols like 16/8 or 5:2 being popular.
The Keto diet has been studied for its potential benefits in weight loss, blood sugar control, and even neurological conditions. However, it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies and has been criticized for its high saturated fat content. Intermittent Fasting has been researched for its effects on weight loss, insulin sensitivity, and cellular repair processes. Yet, long-term studies on its efficacy and safety are still limited.
Both Keto and Intermittent Fasting have scientific backing for specific health benefits, but they are not one-size-fits-all solutions and can have drawbacks. For instance, Keto may not be suitable for those with certain medical conditions like liver or pancreatic issues. Intermittent Fasting may not be advisable for pregnant women or individuals with a history of eating disorders. Consulting healthcare professionals for personalized advice is crucial before adopting these diets.
TikTok Trend – Detox Teas and Juices
Detox teas and juices are widely promoted on platforms like TikTok as quick fixes for weight loss, improved digestion, and enhanced energy levels. These products often contain a mix of herbs, fruits, and vegetables and claim to “cleanse” the body of toxins.
The concept of detoxification through teas and juices lacks robust scientific evidence. The human body has its own natural detoxification systems, including the liver and kidneys, which are highly effective at removing waste and toxins. Some ingredients in detox teas, such as senna, are laxatives that can cause short-term weight loss through water loss, not fat loss.
Detox teas and juices are generally not recommended by healthcare professionals for weight loss or detoxification. The weight loss is usually temporary and can even be harmful, leading to nutrient deficiencies and imbalances. Moreover, some detox teas have been found to interact with medications and can have side effects like diarrhea and dehydration. Always consult a healthcare provider before starting any detox regimen.
TikTok Trend – Tide Pod Challenge
The Tide Pod Challenge is a dangerous trend that gained traction on social media platforms, including TikTok. It involves individuals, often teenagers, daring each other to chew or even swallow laundry detergent pods.
There is no scientific basis for this trend; it is purely a risky behavior. Laundry detergent pods contain highly concentrated chemicals intended for cleaning clothes, not for human consumption. Ingesting these chemicals can lead to severe health consequences.
This trend is not only baseless but outright lethal. Consuming laundry pods can lead to nausea, vomiting, respiratory distress, and even life-threatening situations such as burns to the esophagus, stomach, and respiratory tract. It’s crucial to remind everyone, especially younger individuals, that this challenge carries zero health benefits and substantial risks.
TikTok Trend – Dry Scooping Powders
Dry scooping involves consuming protein or pre-workout powders without mixing them with water. The trend gained popularity on TikTok with the belief that it speeds up absorption and enhances workout performance.
There’s no scientific evidence to support the idea that dry scooping is more effective than consuming these powders mixed with water. In fact, ingesting dry powder can lead to choking, severe coughing, and potential lung irritation or infection. Additionally, these powders often contain high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which, when ingested rapidly, can lead to heart palpitations and other cardiovascular issues.
Dry scooping is a dangerous practice that poses more risks than benefits. It can lead to choking hazards and potential health complications, especially concerning the cardiovascular system. It’s best to stick to the manufacturer’s instructions for consuming these powders, which invariably include mixing them with water.
TikTok Trend – Hot Girl Walks
The “Hot Girl Walks” trend encourages people to take long walks while listening to uplifting music and focusing on positive thoughts, goals, and gratitude. The health benefits of regular walking are well-established and include improved cardiovascular health and weight management. Additionally, the mental health aspects of setting intentions and practicing gratitude are supported by psychological and cognitive science research.
Why do TikTok diet trends go viral?
TikTok’s algorithm excels at creating viral trends. It uses user behavior and AI to promote content, making trends spread quickly. However, this rapid dissemination can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows valuable health advice to reach a broad audience. On the other hand, it can spread misinformation just as quickly, especially when the content is not scientifically vetted.
The TikTok algorithm operates on a combination of machine learning and user interaction data, such as likes, shares, and time spent watching a video. When we engage with a piece of content, the algorithm takes note and starts to show more of the same or similar content to us.
Additionally, the algorithm uses the ‘For You’ page to introduce trending content to a wider audience. This page is a personalized feed that not only shows content from the people you follow but also popular and trending content that the algorithm thinks you might enjoy. It uses trending hashtags and sounds as markers to identify and promote viral content, thereby creating a ripple effect that can make a trend explode in popularity almost overnight.
However, this algorithmic efficiency doesn’t account for the validity or safety of the content it promotes. It’s optimized for engagement, not accuracy. As a result, trends, especially those related to health and nutrition, can go viral without any scientific scrutiny.
Ultimately, it’s up to each one of us to think critically about what advice we receive from social media influencers. TikTok’s ‘For You’ page often promotes trending content, but it doesn’t filter for accuracy or safety.
Will the real expert stand up, please?
Exacerbating the issue of trending but unvetted information on TikTok is the lack of legitimate expertise. A study led by Dr. Lizzy Pope from the University of Vermont and published in PLOS ONE revealed that most diet advice on TikTok comes from young, white female influencers who lack formal credentials in nutrition or health. These influencers, while charismatic and attractive, are not qualified to offer advice on complex health topics.
For example, the study found that there were very few doctors or dietitians interacting in the content. Instead, influencers who have gone viral for their personalities are the ones disseminating information, often based solely on personal experience. This creates a risky environment where misinformation can easily be spread, as these influencers are not held to the same standards as certified health professionals.
The absence of expert voices in the conversation around health and nutrition on TikTok is concerning, especially given the platform’s young user base, who are more vulnerable to eating disorders and misinformation. Dr. Pope emphasized the need for caution, stating that in the realm of nutrition, “there’s so much bad information out there, that we have to be so careful.”
TikTok’s main audience is particularly vulnerable
TikTok’s primary user base falls between the ages of 16 and 24, a demographic particularly susceptible to eating disorders and body image issues. The platform’s content, often promoting unrealistic body ideals and questionable diet advice, poses a significant risk to this vulnerable group. Researchers note that eating disorders most frequently develop between the ages of 12 and 15, making the platform’s influence especially concerning.
Is TikTok a community or a mob?
While TikTok has the potential to build communities around health and wellness, it also fosters a toxic diet culture that glorifies extreme weight loss and promotes disordered eating. Dr. Lizzy Pope, who led a study on the subject, states, “There was a lot of subliminal messaging around what bodies and foods should look like to kind of match up to the thin ideal.” Marisa Minadeo, a nutrition expert and study co-author, adds that the billions of views on weight-related content “say a lot about the role diet culture plays in our society.”
Get professional nutritional counseling vs. TikTok dietary advice
At Oasis Eating Disorders Recovery, we can’t stress enough the importance of professional nutritional counseling and dietary guidance. We work with certified dietitians and healthcare providers to create personalized, evidence-based dietary plans for our clients. Our approach is holistic, taking into account not just nutritional needs, but also emotional and psychological factors that can affect eating habits.
Contrast this with the unverified and often dangerous dietary advice circulating on TikTok. From dry scooping powders to the Tide Pod challenge, these trends are not only scientifically unfounded but can also be hazardous to your health. Even seemingly healthy trends like lemon coffee or ginger shots lack the nuance and personalized care that nutritionists, dieticians, and other medical professionals can offer you.
We strongly advise against following dietary trends or advice from unqualified individuals on social media platforms like TikTok. While some of these trends may seem fun or revolutionary, they are no substitute for professional medical advice. Contact us today for professional medical advice you can trust.