Opinion: The impact of dangerous dietary fads during the pandemic

according to a 2002 study, up to 57% of adolescent girls engage in unhealthy eating behaviors including crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives. Eating disorders are so prevalent among young adults that a study on university campuses91% of women reported trying to control their weight through diet.

The first eating disorder diagnosis was anorexia nervosa, made in 1874 by Sir William Gull. Until the 1900s, eating disorders were a topic that many overlooked or were unaware of.

HHowever, in recent years, the number of patients with anorexia has increased by 36% every 5 years and around eight million people currently suffer from it. Since the most vulnerable age group is women aged 15-24, eating disorders have become a big concern for women in the 21st century.

More than 4.62 billion online, social media platforms are now considered a major driving force behind societal norms and trends. During the coronavirus, quarantine conditions have only increased people’s exposure to such content as they rely more on online entertainment.

Due to this recent change, many have experienced weight gain and an increase in body image problems. It’s understandable that people looked to social media for advice and tips on weight loss.

While some accounts promote healthy lifestyles during quarantine, the popularity of this topic has also allowed dangerous advice to emerge that could increase the risk of unhealthy eating behaviors.

Many diet fads have sprung up quickly as teens share their meal plans on social media and it’s a popular trend. Keto and paleo diets have become most popular because the creators claim have lost a significant amount of weight thanks to these diets.

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Unlike older trends in diets that require a person to eat a minimum amount of food, these diets encourage teens to eat. However, the problem stems from the fact that most of the people who promote diets are not doctors or nutritionists. This leads to the spread of misinformation and unhealthy adaptations to possibly healthy diets.

The ketogenic diet is one of those diets that has taken the internet by storm. The term “keto” is in relationship a ketone, a fatty acid that fuels the body’s metabolism and muscle functions. On a ketogenic diet, people replace carbohydrates with excess fats accumulating a high ketone level in the blood, resulting in ketosis or a fat-burning state. In total, diet participants aim to consume 5% of your daily calories from carbohydrates, 20% from protein, and 75% from fat.

The main problem with this diet is that the consumption of fruits and vegetables must be significantly reduced, since they are a frequent source of carbohydrates, as well as important vitamins and nutrients. Eliminating grains (another common source of carbohydrates) also results in a decreased fiber intake which is necessary for healthy bowel movements. Although the ketogenic diet can lead to rapid weight loss, the body can suffer from the “keto flu” which includes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and constipation. Diet has also been shown to interfere with the proper bone mineral density.

Apple cider vinegar has long been shown to have multiple health benefits including improved weight loss. However, it received its biggest prominence during the COVID lockdown due to a social media trend that encouraged users to drink a shot of apple cider vinegar every day, i.e. the #applecidervinegarchallenge. Many lifestyle creators jumped on the trend by sharing daily videos of drinking pure apple cider vinegar and tracking their weight loss progress.

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In a recent Harvard investigation studyconsumption of pure vinegar has been shown to degrade tooth enamel, making them vulnerable to bacteria and increasing the likelihood of cavities and stains. This tendency is often accompanied by a caloric deficit or diet. Therefore, by consuming pure vinegar when acid levels are high due to a calorie deficit, the body can develop heartburn and acid reflux due to the excessive levels of acidity present.

The coronavirus has caused countless teens to develop dangerous eating habits due to body dysmorphia and sudden weight gain. Many social media personalities have exacerbated this problem by promoting fad diets and stating misinformation in their content to make fads more appealing.

With limited opportunities to exercise socially during the pandemic, many teens have relied on these fad diets to lose weight. However, scientific studies have shown that these diets are ineffective and lead to health degradation.

To prevent further dissemination of false and harmful information, health professionals must adequately inform adolescents about healthy diets and weight loss methods. Schools and organizations need to focus more on educating students about proper nutrition to avoid under- or over-consumption of certain nutrients and foods.

Also, instead of focusing on fad diets, social media influencers should be promoting healthy exercise routines that teens can easily follow at home. Since social media platforms play an important role in society, people need to learn how to use them to promote healthy lifestyles.