According to a study published in the journal PLOS One earlier this week, social media platform TikTok perpetuates a toxic diet culture among teens and young adults. The study looked at “1,000 TikTok videos from 10 popular nutrition, food, and weight-related hashtags each with over 1 billion views.” Key themes found in these videos included:
- Glorification of weight loss.
- Positioning of food to achieve health and thinness.
- Lack of expert voices providing nutrition information.
“Perhaps the most problematic finding from this study is that young people are most frequently engaging and creating diet culture content,” the authors of the study wrote. “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.”
“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,” senior researcher Lizzy Pope said in a news release on the study. “Getting stuck in weight loss TikTok can be a really tough environment, especially for the main users of the platform, which are young people.”
The study on TikTok’s contribution to toxic diet culture comes as an FCC commissioner called on the Council on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to ban the app. Speaking in an interview with Axios, Brendan Carr highlighted concerns about U.S. data flowing back to China and the risk of a state actor using TikTok to covertly influence political processes in the United States.
“I don’t believe there is a path forward for anything other than a ban,” Carr said. He added there isn’t “a world in which you could come up with sufficient protection on the data that you could have sufficient confidence that it’s not finding its way back into the hands” of China.
The Hill contributed to this report.