Welcome to TikTok Debunked, a new series where Yahoo Canada digs into the truth behind popular TikTok health, beauty and food trends.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
Today, we dive into one TikToker's scary experience — with boba tea. After drinking a cup of whole pearls, she was rushed to urgent care, who treated her stomach pain and digestive discomfort.
This got many thinking: is it safe to consume boba pearls, and should they be eaten whole?
Read on for everything you need to know, including an expert's opinion.
The claim — and how it started
On June 3, TikTok user Amanda (@amandarin0ranges) filmed herself eating an entire cup of boba tea pearls. The next day, she recorded herself in the emergency room, where she was being treated for digestive upset.
The video has been viewed over 728,000 times, with over 53,000 likes, 1300 saves and 500 comments.
In the clip, Amanda hangs her head and shakes her finger to tell users not to make the same mistake she did. "Don't drink too much boba," she wrote in the video's caption.
In the comments of the first video, Amanda explained that she works at a boba tea shop. Employees receive two free drinks per shift, and after working for three days straight she ate "a ton of boba." This is in addition to a large cup of pearls she brought home to consume.
In a follow-up video posted on June 4 titled "boba tea PSA," Amanda revealed she didn't want to waste the leftover pearls. Instead of throwing them out, she ate them all — a choice she regretted quickly.
"Don’t do stupid things like me... It wasn’t good for my body," Amanda said in the video. "Boba isn’t bad. It’s just all about quantity."
Boba tea pearls are made from tapioca starch from the cassava root. Generally, boba pearls are added to brewed concentrated green or black tea and milk.
What TikTok users are saying
After watching the viral videos, TikTokers expressed their shock at the clips in general.
Many users explained you should chew the pearls instead of swallowing them whole, which can lead to stomach upset.
"Girl I hope you didn't just swallow them! You have to chew the pearls!" wrote a user. "How to prevent a boba overdose: chew them please!" added someone else.
"When I worked at a boba shop I would bring the leftover cooked tapioca pearls home and eat them all at once and I got the worst stomach aches!," said another.
Other people were concerned for Amanda's health.
"What! Are you OK? This is crazy and I hope you feel better!" penned a fan.
"I truly didn't know this was possible. Note to self!" shared another TikToker.
An expert weighs in
To get an expert's opinion on the ordeal, Yahoo Canada enlisted the help of registered dietitian Abbey Sharp.
Sharp said while boba tea does provide some health benefits (mostly from the tea itself), there are notable disadvantages to consuming the drink.
"There are lots of antioxidant properties in tea. The downside is that typically these pearls are high in starchy carbs and refined sugars in the pearls themselves," she said. "Plus, they are often added into the tea drink with sweetened flavoured syrups."
The dietitian explained that consuming starch in excess contributes to digestive discomfort, which is what Amanda likely experienced.
Consuming an excessive amount of a starchy food like boba pearls could cause constipation and bloating.Abbey Sharp
When it comes to actually eating the pearls, Sharp revealed it's important to chew them before swallowing to prevent any issues.
"It’s also possible to choke on a boba pearl, which is also why it’s recommended you chew them," she added.
But if you're a boba tea lover, fear not! The nutrition expert shared it's still possible to consume the drink safely and in moderation. Changing the type of milk and mix-ins you use can make it even healthier.
"If you love the flavour and texture of boba pearls, which are safe to eat, I recommend consuming them in green or black tea mixed with an unsweetened higher protein milk like pea, soy or cows milk without added flavours or syrups," Sharp said.
Is it debunked?
Boba tea is a beloved drink consumed by Canadians across the country. Its array of flavours and colours — heightened by the boba pearls themselves — makes it a delectable and fun treat.
However, in response to Amanda's experience combined with Sharp's opinion, Yahoo Canada has debunked the trend of eating boba pearls whole.
While they are safe to eat in general, they should be chewed first to prevent stomach discomfort. Additionally, they should be consumed in moderation.
Sharp wants readers to know that while TikTok is a great place to find food ideas and inspiration, you should always take the app with a grain of salt.
"Most creators on TikTok are not credible nutrition professionals. And even if they are, it’s impossible to give individualized advice or advice in enough context to build out a plan that will uniquely work for you," Sharp concluded.