A new study by researchers in the US has found that TikTok is promoting "a toxic diet culture" among teens and young people.

The scientists at the University of Vermont analysed the top 100 videos from 10 popular nutrition, food, and weight-related hashtags for their study.

The videos were then divided into different categories, such as the glorification of weight loss, the positioning of food to achieve health and thinness, and the lack of expert voices providing nutrition information.

They found that these videos portrayed an "unrealistic and inaccurate picture of food, nutrition, and health," and glorified weight loss.

They found that these hashtags had more than a billion views when the research began in 2020. And in the last two years, their reach has only increased, per the study published in the journal PLOS One.

"Each day, millions of teens and young adults are being fed content on TikTok that paints a very unrealistic and inaccurate picture of food, nutrition, and health," said senior researcher Lizzy Pope.

"Getting stuck in weight loss TikTok can be a really tough environment, especially for the main users of the platform, which are young people," added Pope.

The study found that TikTok trends may lead to eating disorders and body dissatisfaction among teenagers and young adults. It is a first-of-its-kind study that analysed content related to nutrition and body image issues on a social media app.

It found that posts on the social media app "undoubtedly elevate the key principles of weight normativity, and may reinforce to viewers the belief that weight is an important indicator of health status and overall self-worth."

"The many trends associated with weight loss omit lifestyle factors that play a role in weight and health, and leave viewers with the message that weight loss and thinness is achievable and desirable to all, potentially leading to unhealthy perceptions and behaviours surrounding food, weight, and body image," reads the study.

TikTok logo. Photo: AFP / Tolga Akmen