- A study investigated 200 TikTok videos tagged with #mediterraneandiet and found less than 10% accurately defined the term, and 20% included no reference to the diet’s health benefits.
- Over 50% of the posts were shared by those claiming to have some nutrition or health knowledge, with these posts generally providing more detailed, accurate information. However, verification of these users’ claims is needed.
- A significant portion of the videos featured food choices which do not align with the Mediterranean diet’s emphasis on fruits, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, and low to moderate amounts of fish, chicken, and dairy.
- Tiktok has responded to the issue of diet misinformation with the #FactCheckYourFeed campaign, aimed at directing users towards trustworthy sources.
- Experts advise seeking advice from registered dietitians/nutritionists instead of relying on social media for nutrition information.
A recent research unveiled an alarming fact – the popular social media platform, TikTok, teems with misleading and wrong information about the globally applauded plant-based Mediterranean diet.
Scrutinizing TikTok Content
In the study undertaken, researchers scrutinized 200 videos bearing the #mediterraneandiet hashtag that appeared on the platform last year in August. This tag insinuates that the videos should contain diet-specific details. Surprisingly, less than 10% included any definition of the term, while 20% had zero reference to the health attributes of this food regimen lauded for its boon to heart health.
Instead, the focus shifted more towards promoting tourism-related elements like Mediterranean culture, Greek hotels, Italian eateries, and similar topics, according to lead investigator Margaret Raber, from the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
The Bright Side
Despite these findings, not all dietary data shared was bad. “A spectrum of nutrition misinformation exists, and much of what we encountered was rather harmless,” stated Raber.
Over half of the posts were shared by individuals who professed to have some nutrition or health knowledge. Such posts tended to have more detail and be more instructive. “But that doesn’t mean that all who claim to be a doctor on the platform necessarily are”, Raber said. “We, however, uncovered that those claiming to be health professionals shared better quality information about the Mediterranean diet.”
Be Wary of Misinformation
A previous glance at cancer-related nutrition data on Pinterest showed concerning levels of misinformation and health assertions. Furthermore, a significant portion of the TikToks featured food choices which bore little or no relation to the Mediterranean diet’s emphasis on fruits, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, beans, and low to moderate amounts of fish, chicken, and dairy.
Alarmingly, almost 70% showcased red meat, refined carbs, and/or sweets and processed foods, despite the diet’s discouragement of added sugars, refined carbs, and/or saturated fats.
The lesson here is that those who are not well-acquainted with the Mediterranean diet may end up being misinformed.
In response to this issue, TikTok launched its #FactCheckYourFeed campaign last year. Its aim is to divert users from diet misinformation and towards authentic sources such as the British Dietetic Association and a host of reliable nutritionists.
Mixed Reaction from Experts
Separately, Lona Sandon, program director in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas in Dallas, was not startled by the findings of the new study. However, she expressed concern over the fact that over 50% of the posters claimed to carry health professional credentials, but nearly 70% gave incorrect information about the diet and only 9% defined it. Sandon advises anyone seeking nutritional information to consult registered dietitian/nutritionists for infallible details based on nutrition science.
These discoveries are eye-opening, highlighting the necessity of approaching online dietary advice with a discerning and aware mindset.
Note: This detailed study is set to be presented in an online meeting of the American Society for Nutrition and is subject to further scrutiny and peer-reviewing before being published in a recognized journal.
For more information, see the Mediterranean diet guide provided by the American Heart Association.