Instagram and Tik Tok are image-based social platforms, both of which are popular methods of imparting nutritional advice but are they giving safe advice.
Long gone are the days of flicking through your favourite gossip magazine to find dietary tips.
The columns were often written by a popular dietician, giving their recommendations on the eating habits of celebrities.
In the last decade, that’s been overtaken by social media use, such as faster, more demanding platforms like Instagram or Tik-Tok.
Algorithms and influencers allow for the promotion of services without the audience having to pay a penny, compared to the £4.00 cost of a gossip magazine circa 2010.
The problem with Instagram and Tik Tok though, is the lack of regulation and the blurred lines between professional services and user-generated content.
Anyone with a socially desirable body and good food photography can give out diet advice.
In the UK, the only people who can legally give this type of advice are dieticians who will have completed a 4-year degree program. This job title is legally protected and is regulated by the HCPC.
Lucy Mountain is a personal trainer who aims to debunk the myths of dietary advice on Tik-Tok; without giving her own advice on what people should or shouldn’t be eating.
Yet neither Instagram or Tik Tok have structures in place to regulate the misinformation and unsolicited dietary advice given on their platforms.
Influencers with a verified profile and a personal training qualification are raking in six figures each year by selling meal plans and nutritional advice to eager followers.
Leanne Ward is one of the few registered dieticians who uses Tik Tok to share educational content regarding diet.
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The problems arise when the information is based on pseudo-science at best or no science at worst.
Terms such as Intermittent Fasting, Macro-biotic diet, Ketogenic Diet, Raw ’till 4, High Carb Low Fat, 80-20 etc are respectively branded as cures to physical health ailments, rapid weight loss, mental health recovery, and even cancer cures.
Any major dietary change should be done under the supervision of a professional, whether that is a GP or a registered dietician.
This is especially true for anyone with underlying health conditions. However, the Instagram and Tik Tok prescriptive diets are often promoted by an individual with thousands of followers, physically unable to give bespoke support and information to individual clients.
This line of work is known as the “cookie-cutter” method and applies the same calorie goals and nutritional advice to everyone.