Only 2% of TikTok Diet Trends Are Accurate: 5 Things to Know

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New research shows that more than 50% of Millennial and Gen-Z TikTok users are influenced by diet and nutrition trends on the platform, yet only 2% of nutrition content on the app is accurate. Mixetto/Getty Images
  • A new survey found that 57% of Millennial and Gen-Z TikTok users reported that they are influenced by or frequently adopt nutrition trends they learned about on the platform.
  • However, only 2% are accurate compared to public health and nutrition guidelines.
  • Experts are concerned about TikTok’s impact given the potential for misinformation.

The fact that fad diets and nutrition advice are widely shared on social media platforms like TikTok is not new news.

However, a new survey The survey conducted by MyFitnessPal and Dublin City University shows that most diet and nutrition trends on TikTok are not in line with public health and nutrition guidelines.

Even more worrying is that out of the 2,000 Millennial and Gen-Z TikTok users surveyed, 57% of respondents said they have been influenced by or frequently tried nutrition trends they saw on the platform.

Yet, only 2.1% of nutrition content on the platform is accurate, according to an AI-based analysis of more than 67,000 videos conducted with Dublin City University, which compared TikTok videos with regulated public health and nutrition guidelines.

The latest research conducted by MyFitnessPal partnering with Dublin City University has revealed that there is a huge amount of health and nutrition misinformation on TikTok. Dr. John Salge BlakeEdD, RDN, LDN, FAND, nutrition professor at Boston University, author of nutrition and youand host of the nutrition and health podcast, accurate!who was not included in the study.

The new data comes as part of a two-part project.

First, MyFitnessPal surveyed 2,000 Millennial and Gen-Z TikTok users. Of the 57% of people who reported being influenced by TikTok health and nutrition trends, more than two-thirds (67%) said they tried at least one of the viral ideas a few times weekly.

Additionally, 30% of respondents said they tried the TikTok trend despite potential health risks, and 31% reported feeling adverse effects from the “fad diet” trend.

“Each person has different needs, and when people try to adopt the same fads or concepts, the individual . , , Removing entire food groups can create nutrient deficiencies, and if they aren’t getting what they need, they will ultimately negatively impact mood, focus, and cognition,” says amy goldsmith Founder of RDN, LDN, soul nourishment,

MyFitnessPal teamed up with Dublin City University to analyze over 67,0000 videos containing nutrition content using artificial intelligence and compared them to regulated health and nutrition guidance.

Preliminary findings indicate that only 2.1% were accurate when tested against this guidance. And 97.9% of the material not included was classified as inaccurate, partially accurate, or indeterminate due to lack of scientific evidence supporting the claim.

Despite TikTok’s influence, Gen-Z users said they trust content from qualified registered dietitians rather than information provided by non-certified influencers.

“Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop them from adopting the trends of unworthy people,” the concern says. Emily Van Eck, MS, RD. “It’s disturbing that so many people are adopting baseless trends and being harmed by them.”

Blake shared similar sentiments.

“While extremely worrying, these findings support other studies that have identified that unqualified individuals are providing nutrition and health misinformation and disinformation,” says Blake.

This is also in line with TikTok’s broader impact.

pew research 2023 indicates that the number of US adults who regularly get news from TikTok has quadrupled in three years, from 3% in 2020 to 14% in 2023. Nearly a third (32%) of people aged 18 to 29 reported receiving news regularly. Via TikTok.

While even a dietitian is concerned by the findings, she says it’s important to acknowledge that there is room for flaws in the way the survey was conducted.

“It is important to acknowledge that at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence to suggest whether – and if so, to what extent – ​​AI can determine on its own whether a video or piece of content is a threat to public health.” and whether or not it follows nutritional guidelines,” said Maddie Pasquarillo, MS, RDNwho was not included in the study.

Additionally, while bias is an issue on TikTok, especially when influencers are paid to promote certain products, Pasquarillo cautions that MyFitnessPal is also not unbiased. The app provides nutritional information.

“We can conclude that by telling people not to turn to TikTok, they may turn to MyFitnessPal instead – and, as they suggest, use the “tool” on their website, and Bring more people to your platform,” says Pasquariello. “They have as much of a vested interest in getting views and clicks to their website as TikTok does.”

A small study Of 20 women with an average age of about 22, who self-monitored their diet on MyFitnessPal, indicated that experiences vary and, although it may be useful for some, if used obsessively If done, it can be harmful.

Blake says the misinformation found on TikTok poses many health risks.

“Nutrition misinformation can be dangerous if followed without the guidance of a person’s health care provider and the nutrition expertise of an RDN,” says Blake. “Many people are taking medications and have chronic medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, which requires them to follow a specific diet to meet their nutritional needs. Additionally, the promotion of extreme dieting and elimination diets, often promoted through social media, may promote disordered eating and malnutrition, especially in young adults.

However, as the survey indicates, qualified individuals are spreading information on social media.

“While it’s never where I recommend people go first for nutrition advice, social media can still be a useful tool for spreading awareness of public health initiatives and evidence-based nutrition advice,” Pasquariello says. “Although their numbers are very small, some influencers and experts know what they are talking about and are extremely rigorous in the content they put out.”

How can you determine who is who? Experts say following these simple tips can help.

consider the source

Reputation matters.

“Health coaches and nutritionists – and many of the “experts” who grace our podcast feeds – are not required to undergo any training [in many states] To give ourselves these titles,” Pasquariello says. “They often fail to properly synthesize research or consider new studies in the context of our understanding of the evidence, largely because they never received training in parsing the literature for a general audience. Their aim is to get views and listens and make money.

Pasquariello says RDs must undergo hundreds of hours of training under comprehensive, science-focused education and supervision, including work in clinical nutrition and research settings.

“In addition, they have to stay up to date on the latest research and earn continuing education credits to maintain their credentials year after year,” she says.

In short, look for RD/RDN on a person’s resume.

“RDNs have also passed a national examination administered by this accrediting body,” says Blake. Starting in 2024All RDN candidates will be required to obtain a Master of Science degree before participating in this national examination.

do some research

Pasquariello suggests fact-checking information, including any studies promoted by influential people — even RDs/RDNs.

“It is important that any RD you are seeking nutritional advice from is able to present peer-reviewed science-based information to support the advice they are giving or the claims they are making,” says Pasquariello. Are. “Optimal, this means randomized, controlled clinical trials and meta-analyses.”

Read the summary at the top of the study.

Pasquariello says, “Many people who give nutritional advice online don’t actually do a thorough study before making sweeping claims about something they see in one line of an abstract of a long piece of scientific literature. Fail to read.”

Additionally, see if there are more recent studies.

“It’s one of the most important, but I think it’s the least talked about,” says Pasquariello. “As medical professionals and RDs, we have an obligation to look at any new study in the context of the larger literature. Whenever a new study comes out that overturns what we know about a topic or presents an entirely new direction for research, I depict the findings as a tiny dot inside a giant circle. I like to do. Yes, we must consider new pieces of evidence, but always in the context of everything that exists in the field to date.

search keywords

Pasquariello says some popular discussions are red flags, including:

  • toxic/poisonous
  • Poison
  • chemicals
  • quick fix
  • Pure
  • detox
  • reset
  • rapid weight loss
  • never eat x
  • always do y

She says, “I become wary whenever someone mentions supplements, gut health, cortisol, hormone imbalance, gut reset, healing your gut lining, etc., without clearly explaining what they mean. means and in which scenarios.” If you’re discerning, you’ll soon realize how often these terms are thrown around as vague, attention-grabbing mentions rather than being fully explained or contextualized.

check the gut

Van suggests doing your own research before following advice you find on a TikTok.

“Keep in mind that one person’s experience is not proof that something is right for you, even if they are an expert,” she says. “Think seriously about the tip they’re giving.”

She suggests asking yourself:

  • Will adopting this trend require a significant amount of time, money, or attentional resources from me that may outweigh the potential benefits?
  • What nutrition hack sounds too good to be true? (“It probably is,” says Van Eck.)
  • Do I think that because this person is “skinny”, younger, more curvy, or has smoother skin, that trying out this questionable trend will make me look like them?

“If it feels like they’re showing off their body, they’ll likely feel as if their body is their business card,” says Van Eck. “That’s a red flag.”

Use evidence-based resources

Although information found online may be vague, there are evidence-based resources that people can turn to. Experts Healthline spoke to recommended the following:

Additionally, individual resources, such as through RD and RDN or WIC programs, can also assist with accurate information.

New data from MyFitnessPal indicates that nearly 6 in 10 Gen-Z and Millennial TikTok users are significantly influenced by the health and nutrition content found on the platform.

However, in a further analysis with Dublin City University, preliminary findings showed that only 2.1% of the information was accurate compared to regulated health and nutrition guidelines.

Experts say it’s best to get information from RDs and RDNs, who have extensive training in nutrition.

It is also helpful to check the facts by looking at the actual study, reading previous abstracts, and asking for data from additional studies to support or refute a claim someone has made online.

Seeing an RD or RDN in person or using the websites of regulated bodies like the CDC or FDA for information can also help you find more accurate insights and data to support your health.