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The Science Behind Viral TikTok Health & Nutrition Trends 

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In the digital arena, where social media platforms reign supreme, one name has emerged as a veritable powerhouse for health and nutrition advice – TikTok. A buzzing hive of content creators and eager audiences, TikTok has become the go-to platform for the latest trends in wellness, fitness, and diet. From viral dance moves to culinary challenges and now, to the realm of health and nutrition, TikTok’s influence is expanding at an astonishing pace. 

The platform’s popularity (and unique selling point) lies in its ability to condense complex information into bite-sized, easily digestible videos, making it an appealing resource for those seeking advice on how to lead healthier lives. However, with this convenience comes significant responsibility. While the app is rife with life-changing advice, it also plays host to a variety of trends that might not always stand up to scientific scrutiny. 

As these trends surge in popularity and sweep across the digital world, it becomes increasingly important for us as consumers to question the science behind them. It’s vital to remember that while TikTok can serve as a tool for inspiration, it should not replace professional medical or nutritional advice. Trends can be fun and engaging, but they can also be misleading or, in some cases, outright dangerous if they’re not grounded in solid scientific principles. 

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the most viral TikTok health and nutrition trends. We’ll dissect the science behind them, separating fact from fiction and empowering you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your health. So, let’s get curious and start questioning what we see on our phones’ screens. 

The Power and Influence of TikTok Trends   

TikTok’s algorithm is exceptionally adept at creating viral trends, arguably more so than other social media platforms. The short-form video platform’s design encourages the rapid spread of trends through an effective combination of user behavior and artificial intelligence (AI). When a user interacts with a piece of content through likes, shares, or time spent watching, the algorithm takes note. It then delivers more content along the same lines to that user, and it also suggests similar content to other users, creating a ripple effect. Additionally, the ‘For You’ page, TikTok’s personalized content feed, plays a pivotal role in the virality of trends by promoting trending hashtags and sounds across its vast network of users. 

The impact of such trends on the general population’s health and nutrition can swing dramatically on the continuum from positive to negative. On the positive side, TikTok has been instrumental in disseminating health and nutrition information to a wider audience. It’s created a platform for dietitians, doctors, and other health professionals to share essential advice, and for everyday users to share their experiences. It has also made wellness advice more accessible, sparked public interest in previously niche health topics, and cultivated a sense of community around health and nutrition. 

However, the coin does flip. The sheer volume and virality of content can often lead to the spread of misinformation. Some trends become popular not because of their scientific validity but simply because they’re entertaining or novel. Additionally, since anyone can become a content creator, it’s not always clear whether the person behind a viral trend has the necessary qualifications or knowledge to offer safe advice. This can potentially lead to people following trends that are ineffective at best and harmful at worst. The democratic nature of TikTok is both its strength and its weakness when it comes to health and nutrition advice. 

Taking a Closer Scientific Look at 5 Health and Nutrition TikTok Trends 

Trend 1: Lettuce Water   

Imagine boiling lettuce, sipping the resultant water before bedtime, and then sliding into a deep, peaceful sleep. Sounds like an unlikely scenario, doesn’t it? Yet, that’s the promise of the “lettuce water” trend that’s been capturing attention on TikTok. The method is straightforward enough: you simply simmer romaine lettuce in water, consume the concoction, and supposedly reap the benefits of enhanced sleep. 

So, is there any scientific validity to this trend? According to a study conducted by Hyo-Won Lim et al., published in the Biology and Pharmacy Bulletin in 2019, there’s some evidence to suggest that green romaine lettuce (GRE) might indeed have sleep-enhancing properties. The study found that certain compounds in GRE – lactucin and lactucopicrin – known for their potential sleep-enhancing properties, could potentially increase sleep duration and reduce the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep in a rodent model. The lettuce extract interacted with the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain, a mechanism known to induce sleepiness. However, it’s crucial to underline that this study was conducted on rodents, not humans.  

Scientific Verdict on the Lettuce Water TikTok Trend 

While the lettuce water trend isn’t harmful – lettuce is a common, safe-to-consume vegetable, after all – the scientific verdict on its efficacy as a sleep aid in humans is still out.  

Moreover, even if future studies do find that lettuce water can improve sleep in humans, it should not be seen as a silver bullet for sleep troubles. Sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, reducing exposure to screens before bed, and ensuring a quiet, dark sleep environment, are all proven methods of improving sleep. If sleep disorders are suspected, it’s essential to seek professional support. While the lettuce water trend is intriguing, it is but one tool in the vast arsenal we have available to tackle sleep issues. 

Trend 2: Hot Girl Walks   

The phrase “Hot Girl Walks” may conjure up images of sizzling summer strolls, but in TikTok parlance, it refers to a wellness trend championed by creator Mia Lind. The concept is wonderfully simple and highly uplifting: take a long walk, pump some inspiring music into your ears, and during this walk, focus on your goals, your accomplishments, and the things in life you’re grateful for. It’s a combination of physical activity, intentional positivity, and gratitude all rolled into one empowering practice. 

The health benefits of this trend are rooted in well-established scientific principles. Regular walking has been shown to have numerous physical health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health and weight management. But it doesn’t stop at physical well-being; walking is also linked to better mental health. It provides a natural mood boost by releasing endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones. 

On the mental side,  setting intentions and expressing gratitude—two key components of a Hot Girl Walk—have been widely studied in psychology and cognitive science. Setting intentions helps orient our minds toward our goals and values, fostering an increased sense of purpose and focus. Practicing gratitude, meanwhile, has been shown to enhance well-being, reduce stress, and promote a more positive outlook. 

Scientific Verdict on the Hot Girl Walks TikTok Trend 

In sum, science supports the benefits of the Hot Girl Walks trend, making it more than just a passing fad. It’s a free, accessible, and effective way to improve both your physical and mental health. 

It’s worth noting, however, that while the Hot Girl Walks trend itself is beneficial, its commercialization needs to be considered with a grain of salt. Lind has trademarked and copyrighted Hot Girl Walks, transforming it into a fully-fledged brand. While there’s no harm in participating in the trend, remember that the real value lies in the activity itself, not the merchandise or the popularity of the brand. By all means, support the creator who founded this trend. But, remember to lace up your sneakers, tune into your favorite playlist, fill your mind with positive thoughts and gratitude, and actually do a Hot Girl Walk. 

Trend 3: Lemon Coffee   

Bright, zesty lemons have found their way into the hearty, warming world of coffee, thanks to the latest viral TikTok trend: lemon coffee. This unconventional mix claims to work miracles in promoting weight loss, boosting metabolism, improving digestion, and increasing energy. But before you squeeze a lemon into your morning cup of joe, it’s worth taking a closer look at what science has to say. 

The idea that a single drink can catalyze significant weight loss is a classic example of the “magic pill” myth—a pervasive and potentially harmful narrative that suggests complex health goals can be achieved with a simple fix. This, in itself, is a red flag; true, sustainable health and wellness result from a combination of balanced nutrition, adequate sleep, regular physical activity, and mental well-being. Falling into the trap of viewing thinness as synonymous with health is a dangerous game that can lead to disordered eating and a distorted body image. 

As for the claim of increased energy, this comes primarily from the caffeine in coffee, not the lemon. Caffeine works by blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine, which promotes sleep, leading to increased alertness and potentially enhancing physical performance. On the other hand, while lemons do contain beneficial nutrients like vitamin C and fiber, some of these are sensitive to heat and may be diminished when mixed with hot coffee. Moreover, the amounts present in a squeeze of lemon are unlikely to have a significant impact on your metabolism or digestion. 

Scientific Verdict on the Lemon Coffee TikTok Trend   

In essence, while lemon coffee isn’t harmful, it’s also not the miracle weight loss solution or health booster it’s made out to be. It’s essential to remember that sustainable weight loss and health can’t be achieved by a single drink or food item, but rather through balanced lifestyle habits. 

Additionally, there’s the simple matter of taste. Many people find the combination of coffee and lemon to be less than palatable. Why compromise the enjoyment of your morning cup of coffee for a trend that is unlikely to deliver on its promises? 

Trend 4: Ginger Shots   

The TikTok world has discovered a zingy start to the day: ginger shots. The recipe is simple – puree fresh ginger with coconut water, strain the juice, then add a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of cayenne pepper. Served up in shot glasses, these trendy morning elixirs claim to boost gut health and kickstart your day. But what’s the real deal behind these fiery concoctions? 

The three primary ingredients – ginger, coconut water, and cayenne pepper – all come with their own potential health benefits. Ginger, for instance, is widely recognized for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and has been used to help soothe digestive issues for centuries. Coconut water, known for its hydrating properties, is also a source of essential electrolytes such as potassium. Cayenne pepper, thanks to its active compound capsaicin, is often associated with “boosting” metabolism, although the actual metabolic shift is likely to be small

As to the best time of day to consume ginger, research hasn’t pointed to a specific optimal time. It’s more about consistency in consumption that could potentially lead to health benefits. 

However, it’s essential to understand that while these ingredients are beneficial, consuming them in concentrated form doesn’t necessarily amplify the benefits. In fact, a sudden influx of these potent ingredients might even cause digestive distress in some individuals. It’s important to recognize that there’s no specific evidence indicating that these ingredients need to be consumed together, in a concentrated form, or in specific quantities to reap their benefits. 

Scientific Verdict on the Ginger Shots TikTok Trend   

If you’re keen on giving ginger shots a try, whipping them up at home is likely to be more cost-effective than store-bought options while offering similar nutritional benefits. But, if the intense flavor of a ginger shot isn’t your cup of tea, remember you can also incorporate these ingredients into your diet in other ways. 

What’s most important is the bigger picture: maintaining a balanced diet, managing stress, getting good quality sleep, and maintaining regular physical activity. Ginger shots may be a supportive addition, but they aren’t a magic bullet for health. Ultimately, whether you enjoy your ginger in a morning shot, steeped in tea, or grated into a stir-fry, it’s about integrating beneficial ingredients into a balanced lifestyle. 

Trend 5: The Internal Shower Drink   

Emerging from the corners of TikTok and Instagram is the “internal shower drink,” a concoction made from six ounces of water, two tablespoons of chia seeds, and a squirt of lemon juice. The enthusiastic users of this simple blend claim it’s a natural remedy for relieving constipation, especially during travel. But is there science backing this digestive elixir? 

Chia seeds are renowned for their health benefits. They are packed with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and quality protein, making them an excellent addition to a balanced diet. Specifically, the high fiber content may contribute to easing digestion. Dietary fiber helps add bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass and thus may alleviate constipation. 

As for the lemon juice, it’s likely added to the concoction for taste since chia seeds don’t have much flavor. There’s no direct scientific evidence linking lemon juice to relieving constipation. However, lemon juice, like all citrus fruits, contains a good amount of dietary fiber and water, both of which can help support healthy digestion when included as part of a regular diet. 

Scientific Verdict on the Internal Shower Drink TikTok Trend   

The “internal shower drink” is indeed a healthy concoction, given its high fiber content. But as a magic remedy for constipation? There’s no hard scientific evidence to back that claim. The potential relief might stem from the increase in fluid and fiber intake, which are known contributors to good digestive health. But it’s crucial to remember that individual digestive systems react differently, and what works for one person might not work for another. 

Additionally, while trying out such trends can be fun, it’s essential to ensure that they’re part of a balanced lifestyle, including regular physical activity, a diet rich in whole foods, and adequate hydration. If constipation is a recurring problem, it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice. 

TikTok Health and Nutrition Trends to Avoid at All Costs 

While some TikTok health and wellness trends may offer benefits when properly scrutinized, others are just plain dangerous and should be avoided. Let’s highlight two such reckless trends: the “Tide Pod challenge” and “dry scooping protein powder.” 

Tide Pod Challenge 

The Tide pod challenge involves teenagers daring each other to chew and even swallow laundry detergent pods. This trend is not only baseless but outright lethal. Laundry pods contain highly concentrated detergent intended for cleaning clothes, not human consumption. Ingesting these pods can lead to nausea, vomiting, cough, respiratory distress, and even life-threatening situations such as burns to the esophagus, stomach, and respiratory tract. It’s important to remind everyone, especially teens, that such a challenge has zero health benefits and carries substantial risks. 

Dry Scooping Powders 

Next up is “dry scooping,” a trend where individuals consume protein or pre-workout powders without any water. While the intended goal may be to increase the speed of absorption for a more potent workout effect, the dangers far outweigh any perceived benefits. Ingesting a dry powder can lead to choking, severe coughing, and potential lung irritation or even infection. Moreover, these powders often contain high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which when ingested rapidly, can lead to heart palpitations and other cardiovascular issues. When taking protein or pre-workout powders, stick to the manufacturer’s instructions, which invariably include mixing the powder with water. 

Main Takeaways 

 
Navigating the ever-changing landscape of health trends, especially on platforms like TikTok, underscores the paramount importance of understanding the science behind these trends. It’s all too easy to get swept up in the popularity of these trends, but it’s crucial to remember that your health is on the line. 

So, before you take that sip of lemon coffee or try a ginger shot, be encouraged to do your own research and, importantly, consult with a healthcare professional. What works for one person may not work for another, and some trends may even pose serious health risks. 

In the era of rapid information sharing, let’s foster a more informed and scientific approach to health and nutrition trends on social media. By doing so, we can better harness the power of these platforms for our benefit— promoting truly healthy habits and debunking the ones that aren’t— and create a healthier, more informed virtual community. 

Become an AFPA Certified Holistic Nutritionist

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