TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas

Will We Miss Ozempic on TikTok?

In a certain way, Ozempic and TikTok were made for each other. One is the most viral social media of the moment. The other is an omnipresent sensation in medical therapy. Both of them fill a vacuum in popular culture. For TikTok, the vacuum might be boredom – though we admit that this assessment comes from our indifference to the medium. For Ozempic, the vacuum is one of options for dealing with a profound medical need that bias and ignorance has pushed out of sight for decades.

Whatever your assessment of this convenient marriage, it’s coming to an end. Or so TikTok says.

Cold Turkey or a Taper?

TikTok posted guidelines that took effect last week to bar content “showing or promoting disordered eating and dangerous weight loss behaviors, or facilitating the trade or marketing of weight loss or muscle gain products.”

This content is so pervasive on TikTok that we doubt content moderation will be fully effective in driving it out. One reason is that many thousands of content creators have made careers for themselves from creating weight loss content. Those TikTokkers are ticked. The guidelines are threatening their business model.

Benign, Malign, or Out of Its Mind?

A recent descriptive analysis of TikTok content with an Ozempic hashtag suggests this content has not fostered a realistic view of medical care for obesity. Rather, it presents GLP-1 therapy as something to “covet.” This misrepresentation of serious therapy for a complex metabolic disease is not benign. It is misleading.

So while we have our doubts that TikTok will succeed in curbing this content on its platform, we clearly would not miss the sensationalism it adds to public discourse about obesity care.

Click here for more on the TikTok weight loss crackdown and here for a qualitative analysis of Ozempic content on TikTok.

TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas, photograph by Anthony Quintano, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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May 22, 2024