TikTok users are at it again — and putting their lives at risk along the way. If you thought the Tripping Challenge, Outlet Challenge, and Fire Challenge were dangerous, now there’s a weight-loss version: The Metabolism Drops TikTok Challenge hit big this week.
Here’s how it works: TikTok users post videos of themselves drinking three-to-four times the recommended amount of Metabolism Drops and tagging them with #metabolismdrops and #weightlosschallenge. The ideas was that by increasing the dosage, they would get quicker results.
Rae, the company behind these drops, noticed their drops were being misused and mis-promoted on the popular social sharing app. They pulled the best-selling supplement from the shelves of Target and their website, and issued the following statement on their website.
Over the past several days, our Metabolism Drops were organically shared through numerous videos on the social media platform TikTok. We became concerned when we started to notice a conversation emerge: teenage girls misusing the product alongside conversation about weight loss, at times using more than the recommended dose. All of our products are formulated for, and marketed to, adult women 18 and older.
While there is no risk in taking our Metabolism Drops as directed, because of this misuse we have decided to proactively pause the sale of our metabolism products and worked quickly with Target to voluntarily withdraw the product in stores and online. There are no safety concerns with any of our products whatsoever.
“Teens are in a developmental phase where their peers have a tremendous amount of influence on their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors,” notes Nicole Beurkens, PhD, CNS, Licensed Psychologist and Board Certified Nutrition Specialist at Horizons Development Resource Center. She tells Parentology, “They also do not yet have a fully mature prefrontal cortex that allows them to manage information and their behavior in thoughtful ways, including thinking through the long-term consequences of their actions. Seeing teens they look up to on TikTok promoting what seems like an easy way to lose weight and look better can cause some teens to take a product like this without concern for their health and the potential longer-term consequences.”
Under the Influence
This is not the first or last time this type of challenge is going to pop on social media. As Beurkens stated, teens are desperately seeking the approval of their peers and are seeing these social media influencers as beacons for inspiration and, at times, replication.
Influencer Marketing Hub reports that six out of ten YouTube subscribers would follow advice on what to buy from their favorite online creator over their favorite TV or movie personality. Additionally, nearly 40% of Twitter users said they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer.
These influencers can be powerful marketing drivers for companies, but can be detrimental to teens who take their advice based on the influencer’s engagement or follower count. Participants aged 13-24 said in a recent study that they were twice as likely to evaluate an influencer by their social presence and follow count.
According to Metabolism Drops manufacturer, Rae, that was one of the primary reasons they removed their product from being sold. It wasn’t because it’s harmful or detrimental when used correctly in accordance with the FDA, but because teens were following dosage advice from people who aren’t doctors or nutritionists.
Ultimately, Beurkens notes that the responsibility for making the right choice in terms of who to follow, what to post and what to buy, is both the parents’ and the teens’.
“Teens need to be made aware of what is healthy and unhealthy content they may be exposed to online, and who to talk to if they see or hear things that are uncomfortable or inappropriate,” Beurkens says. “Consistent communication between parents and children is essential when it comes to device and digital media use. If parents see their child getting involved in fads like this is, they need to discuss it right away.”
Does any responsibility lie with companies like TikTok?
“It’s less the platform’s responsibility than it is the parents or the teen themselves. Parents need to be more alert when it comes to what their kids are doing online,” Beurkens says. “Utilize the tools available on devices and via third-party apps to guide children with the development of safe and healthy digital habits as appropriate for their age and maturity level. Sit down and look together at how kids are using their devices. Set a good model for children with your own device and digital media habits, as kids follow what they see us doing much more than what they hear us say to them.”
Metabolism Drops TikTok — Sources
Nicole Beurkens, PhD, CNS, Licensed Psychologist and Board Certified Nutrition Specialist at Horizons Development Resource Center
Rae Wellness statement
Influencer Marketing Hub
Health.com — ‘Metabolism Drops’ Recall: What to Know about TikTok’s Latest Dangerous Trend