TikTok is awash with videos falsely claiming “detox” drinks, fad diets and parasite cleanses can cure liver disease.
Four in 10 posts about liver disease on TikTok contain misinformation, according to a study presented at Digestive Disease Week in Chicago on Tuesday.
The most common inaccurate posts boasted claims about herbal products reversing liver disease.
Other videos falsely claimed eating mushrooms or beef liver or doing a parasite cleanse would heal the liver.
Liver disease is on the rise, with more than 40 people dying from it in the UK every day.
An estimated one in three people have early-stage non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to the British Liver Trust, and about 20% of these will develop a more serious form of the disease.
Treatment for liver disease varies depending on the diagnosis. Some forms can be addressed by limiting alcohol or losing weight, while others require medication or surgery.
Patients should always consult their doctor about treatment options, study author Dr Macklin Loveland said – but in reality, people often turn to social media.
“When the average person sees a post about liver disease on social media, they may have no idea that the claims are entirely inaccurate,” he said.
He identified 2,223 posts with the terms “cirrhosis” and “liver disease” on TikTok between 1 October and 25 November 2022 and found 40% contained misinformation.
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The inaccurate posts had less engagement than the accurate ones, but they still represent a “high volume” of posts, Dr Loveland said.
“Given the high mortality associated with liver disease, the impact of spreading inaccurate claims on such a popular social media platform could have serious clinical ramifications.”
He said the results support a case for better monitoring and regulation of TikTok as well as doctors being more visible on the platform to counter misinformation.