TikTok Promotes Toxic Diet Culture Among Teens & Youth: Study

The most viewed content here idealises weight loss and portrays food as a way to be slim and healthy

According to a new study conducted by the University of Vermont, content related to food, nutrition and weight loss on TikTok is promoting a "toxic" diet culture among teenagers and young people.

The researchers also found that the opinion of experts is often not included in such content. The researchers found that the notion that weight is the most accurate indicator of a person's health is quite prevalent here.

The most viewed content here idealises weight loss and portrays food as a way to be slim and healthy. According to researchers, similar issues promoting unhealthy messages are also present on Instagram.

Social media affects both men and women, but research from 2020 shows that women are more likely to be affected. It is especially difficult for teenagers to be exposed to harmful health messages, as they already face pressure to fit in and are undergoing physical and emotional changes at the same time. A number of studies have shown that social media is associated with suicide and self-harm among teens.

In the TikTok study, researchers discovered that weight-normative messaging, implying that weight is the best indicator of an individual’s health, is prevalent on this social media platform. Most viewed content promotes weight loss and depicts food as a way to be thin and healthy.

"We saw professional influencers in the videos we looked at, but we also saw a lot of ordinary people saying, 'this is how I lost 15 pounds. It's very easy, you can do it too'." Lizzy Pope, PhD, RD, senior author of the study and Associate Professor and Director of UVM's Didactic Program in Dietetics, said.

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