The TikTok logo at an event in Paris on Nov. 1. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images
Health and dieting trends on TikTok glorify weight loss and may contribute to disordered eating behaviors and body dissatisfaction, particularly in adolescent and young users, according to a University of Vermont study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS One.
Why it matters: It is the first study to assess content related to nutrition and body-image at scale on the the social app for short video.
- It found that many of the videos posted on the social app “undoubtedly elevate the key principles of weight normativity, and may reinforce to viewers the belief that weight is an important indicator of health status and overall self-worth,” the study reads.
- “The many trends associated with weight loss omit lifestyle factors that play a role in weight and health, and leave viewers with the message that weight loss and thinness is achievable and desirable to all, potentially leading to unhealthy perceptions and behaviors surrounding food, weight and body image,” it continues.
The big picture: The study was based on an analysis of the top 100 videos under 10 specific popular weight loss, diet and food hashtags, each with over 1 billion views collectively.
- The videos were then sorted into different categories based on key themes, such as the glorification of weight loss, the positioning of food to achieve health and thinness and the lack of expert voices providing nutrition information.
What they’re saying: “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,” Lizzy Pope, the senior researcher of the study and an associate professor at the University of Vermont, said in a statement.
- “Getting stuck in weight loss TikTok can be a really tough environment, especially for the main users of the platform, which are young people,” she added.
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