How to Interpret the Health Advice You Get on TikTok

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The internet and social media open up a world of information to those searching to learn more about health and fitness. There are some excellent resources full of inspirational tips and advice that can create a lasting positive impact. 

TikTok has been credited with creating sensations around particular healthy recipes, routines, and workouts that directly lead to people developing some healthy habits. However, not all health advice you get online is credible. 

Namely, recent surges in TikTok accounts that push potentially harmful or misrepresentative advice can be more risky than beneficial. It is vital that you know how to decipher the good from the bad. Here are some tips.

Be Wary of Extreme Claims

When deciphering online health claims, whether on TikTok or elsewhere, the first defense is to be wary of any extreme claims regarding your physical health. That includes any medical claims for curing a disease, illness, or condition and any weight loss-related claims.

Not only can the suggested so-called cured remedies or routines be ineffective, but they can also be dangerous or even life-threatening. For instance, the claim that eating apricot seeds can cure cancer is not only false, but these seeds contain a toxin called cyanide that can cause poisoning in large doses. 

Similarly, any claims that have to do with weight loss should be cross-referenced with advice from a healthcare provider. You also can check credible online sources that back up their information with scientific studies and professional input from personal trainers, dietitians, and medical professionals.

There are no dance routines or super intense workouts that can ever guarantee weight loss. Any diet or activity that promises fast weight loss should always be mistrusted. Rapid weight loss is usually not recommended unless you are under a healthcare provider's supervision and the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Remember, large amounts of pro-diet, disordered eating advice, and pro-anorexia content are on TikTok. There have been moves to ban this type of content, but it can often still be found.

Be extremely wary of content promoting diet culture, limiting food, or extreme exercise. Viewing this type of content could lead to disordered thinking around food and your body.

Know That Everyone Has Different Needs

Even if the health advice you see on TikTok may be acceptable for some people, it may not be suitable for you. For example, if you are new to exercise, it is very unwise to attempt an extreme exercise routine. You could end up injured or suffering from overtraining. 

The nature of TikTok videos means they are short. This fact significantly limits the ability to communicate proper form or provide any warnings or contraindications that may apply to you. Some exercises or routines could lead to injury if you are not sure how to do them.

While some fitness influencers are credible and certified in their trade, many are not. It can be difficult to tell the difference, especially with short video clips.

If TikTok has sparked the desire to exercise, that’s excellent. Just make sure you further your research to include proper form and seek the advice of a personal trainer if needed.

Videos showing “what I eat in a day” by some TikTokers also are not blueprints for how you should eat. Everyone has different nutritional needs. Viewing someone’s online food habits may make you feel like you are eating the wrong things in the incorrect amounts.

Not only can this lead to disordered thinking around food, but it provides a false picture of even this person’s actual eating habits. Remember that social media is curated and can be manipulated to display anything the user wishes—and it is not necessarily the accurate picture. Get advice from a registered dietician or other medical professional trained in nutrition.

Never Stop Your Medications

Much of the health misinformation on social media, including TikTok, centers around treatments for diseases, with a large portion of that being focused on cancer.

A shocking 39% of people in the United States believe that alternative medicine such as specific diets, herbal remedies, and vitamins can cure cancer without the use of standard cancer treatments. 

Relying on these unproven remedies is extremely dangerous. There is a substantially greater mortality risk for people who use alternative therapies to treat their cancer instead of professional medical treatment.

Research has found that relying on alternative medicines alone is associated with more than twice the risk of death than those who obtain proper treatment.

Cancer is not the only condition in which misinformation is spread rampantly. Any claims for curing or treating mental or physical conditions, including autism, dental health, depression, joint pain, celiac disease, or anything else, should be scrutinized and discussed with a healthcare provider.

It is absolutely imperative that you never stop taking any prescribed medication without first telling a healthcare provider and working with them to find a solution.

Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others

Similar to understanding that your needs will be unique from others is also knowing that comparing yourself to other people is a recipe for poor self-esteem and discouragement. Social media is known to cause mental health issues in users—especially young people—and part of the reason is self-comparisons. 

Anything someone online portrays about themselves and their lives is curated, modified, and handpicked. Nothing you see can be considered reality.

It is vital not to fall into the trap of comparing your life, your health, and your physical appearance to that of others. Doing so could lead to mental health issues. Always view social media as make-believe, never reality.

Never Consume Dangerous Substances

It is not only dangerous TikTok challenges that can lead to consuming hazardous substances. Some so-called health advice recommends consuming toxins or unhealthful materials as well. This sensation does not only apply to oral consumption either.

For instance, the trend to place garlic cloves in your nose to cure stuffiness and colds is very risky. Doing so not only increases stuffiness but could lead to infection, or, in extreme cases, the garlic could become lodged in your nasal passage, necessitating emergency medical attention. If you want to use garlic for a cold, try making garlic tea instead.

Sometimes, it is not the substance that is the problem but the method of consumption.

One example is dry scooping pre-workout powders. This is not only pointless but can lead to inhalation of the powder into your lungs, which is very dangerous.

Follow Professional Advice

Much of the time, TikTok influencers are not professional medical providers nor are they credible trainers or dietitians. Even if the influencer you follow has credibility, their advice does not take into consideration your specific health background or needs.

There have been instances where popular influencers claim to have cured or managed a disease or illness using specific remedies and routines while disregarding standard medical care. Remember that not only can this be life-threatening in cases like cancer, but many of these influencers have been exposed as fake, never having cancer or any other illness in the first place. 

It is always best to discuss any health questions or concerns you have with a healthcare provider. Reading about diet and fitness or even medical advice online is fine if you use appropriate sources as well as seek further guidance from an in-person professional.

Verywell uses vetted research and expertise to provide health, fitness, and wellness advice. You can also rely on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, The National Cancer Institute, and the USDA Dietary Guidelines for information that has been thoroughly researched and reviewed.

A Word From Verywell

If you are ever in doubt about your wellness, speak to your healthcare provider. While finding motivation and excitement to improve your health due to TikTok content is a wonderful thing that can lead to the development of new goals, it is always vital to take any advice or routine with a grain of salt.

Cross-reference all health advice with vetted sources. You also should reach out to a healthcare provider in a related field for individual opinion and expertise that fits your specific needs.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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