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Experts Warn of Risks: Social Media-driven Diet Trends Pose Threat to Young People’s Health

Experts Warn of Risks: Social Media-driven Diet Trends Pose Threat to Young People's Health

Health professionals have issued a stern warning about the dangers of young people blindly following diet trends promoted by social media influencers, cautioning against the adverse health consequences that may result from such practices.

Kanika Hughes, co-founder of Leela’s Lunches, a provider of meals to schools and nurseries in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, expressed concern over the growing reliance of adolescents on social media for nutritional guidance. She emphasized the dangers of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to health and nutrition, often propagated by unqualified influencers on platforms like Instagram.

According to Hughes, many young people are swayed by influencers boasting six-pack abs or claiming to be fitness trainers, leading them to adopt restrictive diets or unconventional health practices without considering the potential risks. Such trends, including extreme diets like the coffee cleanse or consuming only raw carrots, can have serious repercussions on individuals’ health.

Moreover, excessive use of social media has been linked to mental health issues among young people, with a significant percentage reporting harmful effects on their well-being. The Arab Youth Survey 2023 revealed that a majority of young Arabs believe social media negatively impacts their mental health, making it challenging for them to disconnect from digital platforms.

Faten El Hajj, a mother of two in Dubai, shared her concerns about her 16-year-old son’s reliance on social media influencers for health advice, citing instances where he prioritized influencers’ recommendations over medical professionals’ guidance. This misplaced trust in influencers, according to El Hajj, has led to unhealthy behaviors and even potential health risks for her son.

Olivia Izzo, a psychotherapist specializing in child and adolescent mental health, echoed these concerns, highlighting the dangerous influence of influencers on young people’s dietary choices and body image. She emphasized the importance of seeking personalized medical advice from qualified professionals rather than blindly following influencer-driven trends.

Brilliant Mhlanga, a professor of strategic communication and media at Abu Dhabi University, called for collaborative efforts among parents, schools, authorities, and the government to address the issue effectively. He emphasized the need for clear policies to regulate social media content and protect young people from harmful influences.

In response to these concerns, social media platforms like TikTok have pledged to implement safeguards to protect users from harmful content. Lynn Sutton, TikTok’s head of Outreach and Partnerships, Trust and Safety EMEA, highlighted the platform’s commitment to promoting a positive and inclusive environment while taking proactive measures to address potential challenges.

As the prevalence of social media-driven diet trends continues to rise, it is imperative for individuals, especially young people, to exercise caution and seek guidance from qualified professionals when making health-related decisions. By prioritizing evidence-based information over influencer-driven trends, individuals can safeguard their health and well-being in an increasingly digital age.

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