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7 TikTok Trends That Are Unhealthy, Say Experts

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August 8, 2023
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TikTok has taken the world by storm and some reports show that younger generations are using it more like a search engine to get their information than social media. If people are going to TikTok for answers, it begs the question of how credible their source is, and these unhealthy trends are proof of that.

While there are many fun tips, hacks, and credible information coming from TikTok creators, there’s also a fair share of quackery, zealots, and unqualified, non-credentialed people giving nutrition advice. One red flag is personal trainers and laypeople on TikTok giving nutrition advice when they have no education. Leave nutrition advice to the professionals and those who got a lot of education to get our degrees, says Brittany DeLaurentis, MPH, RD, CSO, LD.

Let’s find out exactly what the experts advise against trying from TikTok and learn the dangers of listening to charlatans on the internet.

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1. Drinking borax

We can’t believe we have to debunk this one, but no, you should not be drinking borax, also known as a chemical that has been banned in the U.S. food supply. The newfound popularity of the Borax consumption craze on TikTok has undeniably gained traction, prompting a need to discuss its potential hazards. Despite certain misconceptions, there is absolutely no credible scientific proof indicating any advantageous health outcomes linked to the consumption of Borax. On the contrary, Borax is a harmful substance that can pose risks to the human body, even in minor quantities.

“Consuming Borax can lead to serious health consequences,” says Kristin Draayer, MS, RDN. “Immediate symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. But the dangers don’t stop there. Over time, the ingestion of Borax can cause severe damage to the kidneys, lead to convulsions, and can even be fatal.”

The propagation of this trend is largely rooted in the “natural fallacy” — the misguided belief that if something is natural, it is, therefore, safe and beneficial, she adds. However, this is a dangerous misconception. While Borax is a naturally occurring mineral, it is far from safe for human consumption. Nature is full of substances that are harmful or even lethal to humans. Cyanide, for example, is natural, but it’s also a deadly poison.

Related: This “Ice Cream” Trend on TikTok Is High in Protein and Delicious

2. What I eat in a day

While it might be motivating or inspiring to see what different people eat in a day, this trend has gotten picked up by people in the eating disorder and disordered eating communities as a way to show off their restrictive or obsessive eating choices. To an untrained eye, you may not pick up on this right away and rather find yourself comparing your choices to the unrealistic portrayal of others.

“What I eat in a day” posts on TikTok are unfortunately a huge source of disordered eating promotion. It will often start with a shot of their body, followed by an ultra-low-calorie day of eating. Those posts send the message that if you eat in that way, you’ll look the same as that person, which is ultimately just not how it works,” says Jamie Nadeau, RD of The Balanced Nutritionist.

Very often the people sharing those posts are under-eating and sharing food quantities that are completely unrealistic for people, she adds. It’s crucial for individuals to understand that these popular posts often don’t accurately depict the appropriate food portions required for most. If you’re striving to improve your diet, keep in mind that we each have unique needs, and the quantity of food we require can vary significantly.

3. Extreme fasting

“The extreme calorie-cutting craze is concerning,” DeLaurentis says. “People are cutting out a lot of calories and carbohydrates that their bodies need when exercising a lot. I know someone who went on a 72-hour fast with just water and was talking about how it increased her willpower and how strong her mind over matter can be on TikTok.”

4. Sleepy chicken challenge

NyQuil, an over-the-counter medication, has no business being drizzled over your dinner.

The TikTok trend “Sleepy Chicken” challenge involves cooking chicken in NyQuil, an over-the-counter cold and cough medicine. This challenge is considered unhealthy due to the inappropriate ingestion of medication, unknown effects of heat on the medication, the risk of overdose, and the lack of safety and efficacy. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning against the dangers of misusing medication in this trend, cautions Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of One Pot Wellness.

5. Volume eating

“Volume eating is portrayed on TikTok as a means to eat as much as you want, but not gain weight. The videos often will show somebody eating half a watermelon for their lunch, for example. This is problematic as it’s still promoting disordered behaviors around food, and promotes filling our bodies for quantity, instead of working to achieve balanced, nourishing, and sustainable behaviors,” adds Jessi Holden, MS, RDN a culinary dietitian.

Related: 6 Sheet Pan Recipes from TikTok Nutritionists Love

6. Mukbang trend

A flip side of the volume eating trend is the Mukbang trend where folks eat copious volumes of food on camera. We have seen that these videos can be harmful for folks who have binge eating disorder tendencies as they can skew what healthy portions look like or may glamorize unhealthy eating behaviors.

7. Gallon of water challenge

Even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. That’s true with water, and you should be judicious of how much fluid you take in one day. Consistently high amounts of water each day can dilute electrolyte levels and cause heart complications.

“The TikTok gallon water drinking challenge is one to be wary of. While hydration is, of course, important (and there are times when drinking a gallon of water in a day is appropriate), there’s no need to do so in one sitting,” says Sarah Garone, NDTR, CNC. “This can lead to dangerous electrolyte imbalances that could cause symptoms like disorientation, nausea, and even coma. Consider setting a daily hydration goal for yourself, rather than chugging tons of water all at once.”

Read Next: The Viral TikTok Pasta That’s Not Worth It (and What to Make Instead)

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