TikTok food trends 'perpetuate toxic diet culture' among teenagers

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Food content on TikTok "perpetuates a toxic diet culture" among teens and young adults, researchers have reported.

There are thousands of clips on the video-sharing platform featuring creators detailing their exercise and lifestyle routines.

However, researchers from the University of Vermont have now reported that weight-normative messaging - the idea that weight is the most important measure of a person's health - largely dominates the site, with the most popular videos glorifying weight loss and positioning food as a means to achieve health and thinness.

"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," said senior researcher Lizzy Pope. "Getting stuck in weight loss TikTok can be a really tough environment, especially for the main users of the platform, which are young people."

In addition, very few creators were considered expert voices, defined by the researchers as someone who self-identified with credentials such as a registered dietitian, doctor, or certified trainer.

"We have to help young people develop critical thinking skills and their own body image outside of social media," added Pope. "But what we really need is a radical rethinking of how we relate to our bodies, to food and to health. This is truly about changing the systems around us so that people can live productive, happy and healthy lives."

Full study results have been published in PLOS One.