TikTok diets: From the ridiculous to the dangerous
2/2/2023 by Elisa Iglesia
If you've been paying any attention to social media, you know that TikTok has blown up within the last few years. The video sharing app has become a social space for many to share their everyday lives, including meal planning, recipes and even diet trends. But how sustainable are these diets? Are they helpful or harmful?
We've seen our fair share of nutrition misinformation on the social platform, so here's what you need to know about TikTok diet trends:
- The Trend: We'll start with lemon water — this trend consists of adding lemon juice to water and drinking it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. The health claims, according to some videos on TikTok, are that it boosts metabolism and increases weight loss.
- The Truth: Four main ways to increase metabolism include adding muscle mass to your body via weight training, eating protein at every meal, not skipping meals and getting enough sleep each night. Drinking water each morning is great for hydration, and lemon juice provides plenty of vitamin C. But there is no scientific evidence that lemon water will result in weight loss.
- Helpful or Harmful: There's nothing wrong with adding lemon juice to your morning glass of water. However, it's not a secret weight-loss drink.
- The Trend: The ketogenic diet is the highest trending diet on TikTok, with over 10 billion hashtags. The high-fat, very low-carb diet has been popular for years, claiming to aid in weight loss by entering a state of ketosis, forcing the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates for energy.
- The Truth: Mayo Clinic aided in the development of the ketogenic diet in the 1920s as a treatment for children with epilepsy — it was never intended for long-term weight loss. Research has shown that ketogenic diets are no better than other diets when it comes to weight loss, as it all comes down to being in a caloric deficit.
- Helpful or Harmful: The ketogenic diet is poor in overall quality because it leaves out entire healthy food groups, including fruits, whole grains and dairy. If weight loss is the goal, there are better methods, such as the Mediterranean diet, paired with a caloric deficit for healthy and sustainable weight management.
- The Trend: While we've seen plenty of low-carb diets become popular throughout the years, this newer zero-carb, all-meat diet may be the most extreme yet. Anything that isn't meat, poultry and fish, or derived from one of the three, is not allowed in the carnivore diet, with health claims ranging from weight loss to anti-inflammatory effects to increased testosterone levels.
- The Truth: Not only is this diet not sustainable, but there's also no scientific evidence supporting any such claims. It's important to note that most scientifically proven anti-inflammatory diets tend to be plant-based. Animal products also can contain higher amounts of saturated fat, which we want to limit for heart health.
- Helpful or Harmful: This diet could potentially be harmful, especially if done long term. Such high amounts of protein can put stress on the kidneys. You're better off eating a well-rounded diet with lean protein sources, along with a balance of all food groups.
Dry scooping pre-workout
- The Trend: This popular trend among gymgoers promotes consuming pre-workout powder without mixing it with water prior to exercise with hopes of improved performance.
- The Truth: A 2018 study found that some may experience improved performance surrounding pre-workout supplement intake because it can act as an ergogenic aid. However, there is no evidence that taking pre-workout powder without liquid improves performance, and it may suppress such benefits due to lack of hydration. When searching the trend on TikTok, a disclaimer appears warning users that this online challenge may be harmful and encourages users to protect their well-being.
- Helpful or Harmful: It's most likely harmful. Not only could dry scooping be a choking hazard because the body is not intended to swallow powder, but this dangerous trend has been linked to numerous health risks, including heart attacks. It's recommended to consume pre-workout supplements according to the package directions.
The bottom line is to be mindful of where you receive your nutrition information. If you have nutrition questions, we encourage you to ask your health care clinician to connect you with a registered dietitian.
Elisa Iglesia is a dietetic intern at Mayo Clinic. She earned her bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Kinesiology from Miami University and her master's degree from Columbia University in Clinical Nutrition and Exercise Physiology.