In an age of widespread medical misinformation and micro-influencers, viral health trends are everywhere. Opening Instagram, it isn’t hard to see a former reality TV star pegging an unhealthy diet that does more harm than good. Over on TikTok, random combinations of food stuck up orifices are jokingly demonstrated in a video with over 10 million views before thousands try to re-enact it and TikTok doctors play medical myth-buster in the comments.
According to a survey by the Endeavour College of Natural Health, a third of Australians don’t know if the influencers they follow have any qualifications to back up what they post about. Even worse, close to half of the people aged 18 to 24 and 41 percent of people aged 25 to 34 follow influencers without knowing if they are qualified in what they share posts about.
“Whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook, there are too many incidents of so-called experts making inaccurate health claims. Not only can this be harmful, but it’s also unethical and irresponsible,” said Endeavour College Nutrition Trainer Sophie Scott.
“All people in a position of influence should be upfront and honest about their qualifications, especially if they are offering tips and advice in an area of health and wellness. Just as we expect to see accreditation when we enter a health practice, we’re calling on all health influencers to be clear about their qualifications so their audience can decide how credible they are.”
So, with that said, here are some of the viral health trends that do more harm than good.
TikTok’s ‘Garlic Cloves Up Your Nose’ Trend
Over on TikTok, people were shoving raw garlic cloves up their nostrils after a couple in the United States claimed that it cleared their sinuses. They claimed that the trick was leaving it in for 20 to 30 minutes. In disturbing footage, a bubble of snot was seen erupting from the man’s nose as he removed the garlic clove over the sink.
This trend was quickly disproven as it turned out that the garlic was actually irritating your sinuses and causing mucus to develop, as opposed to clearing it.
The age-old claim that garlic is a natural remedy to a yeast infection
Similarly, over the years, plenty of non-qualified so-called health experts have claimed that garlic is a natural remedy to vaginal yeast infection. One video about the claim that was released in 2014 has close to 2.5 million views.
Contrary to the theory’s virality, health experts say garlic is not a home remedy for a vaginal yeast infection. While it does have antifungal properties when compressed into a dish of cells, the garlic you find at a supermarket comes straight from the soil, contains bacteria, and could actually further irritate a yeast infection.
As the infamous TikTok sound goes: “Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.”
TikTok’s ‘Henna Freckle’ trend
TikTok’s beauty community has had its own fair share of viral hacks that are actually damaging to you, but nothing is quite as startlingly bad as the Henna Freckle trend.
The Henna Freckle trend involves giving yourself freckles by pressing needles deep into your skin. Now, it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to say that that isn’t good for you.
Big Brother star Tilly Whitfield tried this trend two months before she appeared on the show. In an Instagram post, she revealed that the trend left her with “deep below surface level scarring and dark pigmentation,” as well as a temporary loss of vision.
TikTok’s ‘Coconut Oil Lube’ Trend
Late last year, people began looking into boiled coconut oil as a supplement to lube, after model Jay Alvarez used it in a homemade sex tape.
There are no scientific studies on this one, folks, I just suspect that boiling hot liquid is not a good thing to put on your skin let alone inside you. Even if rectal burns caused by anal douching with hot water reportedly only cause “conservative” injuries, it’s still not worth trying.
The Carnivore diet
Best known as the fad diet that ruined Elly Miles’ career, the Carnivore diet is a lifestyle trend grossly popularised by Joe Rogan. According to the diet (and contrary to science), it lists a number of vegetables and seeds and nuts as “toxic”, despite their rich mix of protein and vitamins.
According to the diet, seed oils, leafy greens, capsicums and tomatoes, onions, grains, broccoli and Brussel sprouts, and seeds and nuts are toxic, while avocados, berries, squashes and cucumbers (minus the skin and seeds), honey, olives, dates and sweet fruit, and meat are okay.
Please note: a proper diet consists of a healthy mix of vegetables (yes, all of them) and meat and dairy or other sources of protein and calcium.
Per our sister site Pedestrian.TV, a dietitian commented on Miles’s Facebook post about the diet, clarifying:
“This message is toxic, the foods [listed] aren’t. Dietary advice should come from professionals. End of story.”
The Potato Diet
The potato diet involves eating only plain potatoes for three to fives days straight. In an interview with News.com.au in 2016, an Aussie man claimed he lost 50 kilograms from “nothing but potatoes for a year.”
It’s worth noting that a potato does not contain all of the important vitamins and minerals you need in a diet. It’s also worth noting that no one should be on a diet for that long—unless you’ve been advised by an accredited dietitian.
TikTok’s ‘What I Eat In A Day’ Trend
This isn’t so much a specific trend as it is a type of trend. Over on TikTok, people have shared day in the life videos describing what they do and eat in a day.
For many that go viral, the diets and lifestyles promoted in them are unrealistic. Creators boast that they wake up at 4:30 am to get the most out of their day and either document a ridiculously healthy and expensive diet or a high-calorie diet yet look thin or eat very little in a day. All of the following encourages eating disorders; it’s the mere practice of promoting these lifestyles and even promoting the practice of documenting them that’s particularly unhealthy here.
Not everyone can go for a 10km run before work, cook and eat a slow-cooked quinoa and chickpea salad with a goji berry smoothie on their lunch break, and do a two-hour stretching routine, all while running on four hours sleep.
YouTube’s ‘Study With Me’ Trend
Over on YouTube, people live-stream themselves studying for long periods of time—as in, between three to 12 hours. It’s an incredibly unachievable goal as is, but for viewers, it perpetuates this extremely toxic level of positive productivity and gives off an impression that that’s an average amount of hours you should be spending per day studying.
A 2018 study found that a majority of medical students study for three to five hours a day. According to another report, students spend on average 17 hours a week studying. So, the idea of committing to up to 12 hours of non-stop studying is all just toxic positivity nonsense.