Mukbang madness Why do viewers have such major appetites for
Mukbang madness Why do viewers have such major appetites for

Mukbang madness: Why do viewers have such major appetites for binge-eating content?

The Health Ministry in the Philippines has asked content creators in the country to take a healthier approach when it comes to making food-related videos in a report yesterday (July 9).

This comes after the Health Ministry reportedly mulled banning videos featuring creators consuming large amounts of food in one sitting, a social media trend popularly known as ‘mukbang’. According to the Inquirer, the country’s health secretary Teodoro Herbosa proposed a study on the need to ban mukbang content after the death of popular vlogger Dongz Apatan.

Apatan died on June 14 after suffering from a heart attack, whereupon he lapsed into a coma then succumbed to a haemorrhagic stroke.

A day before his death, Apatan posted a video of himself consuming a big portion of fried chicken with rice on his Facebook channel.

Herbosa said the mukbang video trend promotes overeating and can lead to other health risks. Investigations are underway to determine if Apatan’s mukbang activities contributed to his death.

Apatan’s channel, which mostly features mukbang content, remains active.

In a post on June 26, a representative said his children will continue to use Apatan’s channel to “sustain their daily needs and schooling” as the grandparents are unable to work due to old age. His channel has over 477,000 followers with one of the most popular videos garnering more than 8.2 million plays on the platform.

The appetite for mukbang

The trend originated from South Korea, where the term ‘mukbang’ translates to ‘eating broadcast’. A report by Ars Technica in 2016 attributed the growing popularity of mukbang due to viewers feeling the loneliness of living in a single-person household. So watching a video of another person eating is akin to having a virtual companion during meal times.

The report also revealed that content creators can make thousands of dollars a month through virtual currency donated by viewers. In a 2023 report by ABC News, US-based vlogger Trisha Paytas claimed she made US$50,000 (RM235,300) in ad revenue from a video where she ate five different pizzas.

However, she also admitted to dialling back on some eating challenges to focus on her health.

Mukbang video trends have sparked some concerns with reports emerging of content creators possibly risking their wellbeing. In a 2019 interview with Men’s Health, Nicholas Perry, famed as Nikocado Avocado for his extreme eating videos YouTube, said he suffered from some discomfort after filming videos featuring spicy food.

“I can’t fall asleep because I feel like my digestive tract is on fire. And then I’m running to the bathroom. I’m sitting on the toilet crying,” he said.

In 2022, a Malaysian doctor warned how mukbang can be a dangerous trend for viewers to emulate. In a post on Facebook, Dr Kamarul Ariffin Nor Sadan said he was seeing a lot of stomach-related cases including gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux and bulimia due to the influence of watching mukbang content on social media.

He added that mukbang may be detrimental to both creators and viewers when it contains elements that can encourage unhealthy eating, such as consuming huge portions of food as well as food with excessive amounts of sugar or spiciness.

He said that both creators and viewers should make or consume mukbang videos within some boundaries or limits to avoid risking any harm.

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