Oatzempic is not Ozempic: It’s risky to count on TikTok for nutrition tips

Dr. Zhaoping Li warns against internet diet trends.
A bowl of oatmeal
Oats and oatmeal are nutritious, but should be part of a well-rounded healthy diet.

Many people are turning to social media, TikTok in particular, for diet tips. Is that a good idea? 

Zhaoping Li, MD, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition and chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at UCLA Health, shares her thoughts.

Q: Can relying on TikTok trends for nutritional advice be harmful? If so, what should people look out for?

Dr. Li: Absolutely. Nutrition advice needs to be scientifically based and should come from those who have been formally trained in the field. The foods we eat play an important role in disease prevention and treatment, so it should be considered medicine. 

People – especially parents and teens – should seek advice from physicians, health care providers, and those trained in nutrition, such as registered dieticians. They can also get information from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and websites of major academic medical centers.

Q: Take the “oatzempic” example circulating social media today. Is there any scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of oats and lime juice for weight loss? 

Dr. Li: No, but by coining a name that sounds like Ozempic, I can see why people might be easily fooled into thinking it may be based on science or work like Ozempic. If oats and lime juice are used as meal substitutes, it may support weight loss efforts, but the weight loss would be due to a calorie deficit.

Oats and oatmeal are nutritious and should be considered part of a healthy diet. They have been proven to help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. Fiber in oatmeal can also impact hormones that regulate hunger and appetite and help one feel full for longer. Lime juice is a source of vitamin C. But depending on this concoction for dramatic weight loss is foolhardy and could be especially harmful to those with underlying health conditions or the elderly. 

Q: How can young people critically evaluate the nutritional advice they encounter on TikTok and other social media platforms?

Dr. Li: It is hard, but the first step is to realize that most of what “average” people – even those considered influencers – post on the internet should be considered entertainment, not medical advice. Only people with educational credentials can give nutrition advice, so check multiple resources and ask your physician or a registered dietician. 

Q: What are the potential long-term consequences for young people who frequently follow unverified nutritional trends? 

Dr. Li: Ultra-low-calorie diets, fasting, and eating only one type of food can negatively impact health and well-being and potentially harm a person’s metabolism over the long term. There can also be mental health consequences, including issues with self-esteem and body image. 

Q: What are some safe and effective strategies for weight loss that are backed by scientific research? 

Dr. Li: Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for weight loss – although that fact doesn’t stop people on social media from trying to find one. A healthy lifestyle is the key. That includes regular exercise, paying attention to the quality and quantity of food, centering your diet on natural, unprocessed foods, and developing an eating plan that fits the individual’s needs, which may be impacted by age, health conditions such as diabetes, allergies and personal taste.