Healthy Eating

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Hidden Dangers of Mukbang

With social media connecting people from across the world, "mukbang" has turned into a trending reality. But what is mukbang that people are tuning into watch? Let's find out!

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New health and food trends come and go constantly, with some sticking in today's society while others die down.

But with social media connecting people from across the world, circulating trends are noticed with just a few clicks. And media has transformed "mukbang" into a trending reality.

So what exactly is this mukbang trend individuals are tuning in to watch and speaking of? Let's find out!

What Is Mukbang?

Also known as "muek-bang," the term originates from two Korean words meaning "eating" (meokneun) and "broadcast" (bangsong). So combined, mukbang describes an "eating broadcast."

The popularity of mukbang started in South Korea in 2011. Fast forward to modern day, Today, hundreds and thousands of people continue to tune in to watch so-called "broadcast jockeys.” The jockey, or host, binge eats large quantities of food in front of a live stream.

Mukbang videos are mostly featured on YouTube, with hundreds of thousands and even millions of views. But mukbang has evolved from Korean culture and carried over into the United States. Take, for example, Erik the Electric who takes on eating challenges and the "The All American Mukbang."

Truly, the trend continues to grow in popularity. What's more, the mukbang stars often receive donations from viewers or partner with sponsors. Some mukbangers make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and use mukbanging as their full-time job.

However, nutrition experts indicate potential risks and benefits of the growing trend. So should or shouldn't you be tuning into this growing food trend?

What Are the Risks of Mukbang?

Watching mukbang is primarily up to the viewer's discretion. However, nutrition experts warn it may promote overeating and encourage poor eating habits.

Mukbang may promote overeating.

After watching some of the clips, there is not much question the "broadcast junkies" overindulge on mass amounts of food. They mostly overeat on packs of ramen noodles, fried chicken, pizza, and the list goes on.

This ultimately raises the concern on whether or not they are promoting overeating and binge eating. Or, if they are simply aiming to grab the attention of its viewers and gain more of them.

But nonetheless, the massive portions of foods are consumed and keeps viewers tuning back in.

Mukbang may encourage poor eating habits.

Research suggests it takes, on average, 21 days to form a habit. So if consistently gorging on high volumes of food, we must wonder if poor eating forms are likely to form.

Glamorizing high portions may not only accelerate large meal plates but rising the intake of poorer nutrition choices.

Partaking in mukbang likely comes with health risks.

Eating large plates can start linking mukbang and weight gain. This can, in turn, increase the risk of weight-related health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

What's more, watching may be a trigger for disordered eating patterns and come with its own subset of risks.

What Are the Benefits of Mukbang?

Ending on a positive note, mukbang may offer some sort of benefit to viewers. Because on the flip side of the coin, nutrition experts suggest the videos may break diet barriers. It also brings people together from around the world.

Mukbang may help break down barriers related to diet culture.

Today's diet culture tends to place too much emphasis on what you should and should not eat. This is likely an action to reach the right "look."

Mukbang, on the other hand, may break the stigma of avoiding "bad" foods in such a diet-driven society. This can open up the door for viewers to overcome food avoidance.

In fact, Erik the Electric has overcome anorexia and is open about how starting YouTube channel helped him do so. Viewers have commented watching the videos have made them more comfortable with eating.

This can empower individuals to feel comfortable in their skin, especially as the trend spreads its way to the States.

Mukbang brings people together from around the world.

Those who watch feel involved in a large social connection. They also start building connections with their favorite channels and broadcast junkies.

While viewers are miles apart, tuning in forms a unique unity from the comfort of personal social media accounts.

Mukbang resurfaces a critical health piece many often dismiss: The importance of shared meals. Whether it be with friends, family, neighbors, meals consumed together is a growing lost art.

The slip of communal meals can be related to busy schedules, living alone, or any other life circumstances and situations. Individuals who tune into the Korean trend consistently mention the following theme. This is feeling a sense of community around eating food.

Recognizing and realizing the potential health consequences is vital, though. If struggling with disordered eating, professional help is recommended over watching mukbang.

Ultimately, these social eating shows can bring people together from various countries, nationalities, and homes.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on August 30, 2017. Updated on September 28, 2019.

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