Health professionals are alarmed at a fad for livestreaming cooking and eating because they fear it will exacerbate Korea's obesity crisis.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare has flagged the broadcasts as fostering binge eating, another underground trend that has grown to alarming proportions.
Kang Jae-heon, the head of the Korean Society for the Study of Obesity (KOSSO), said the livestreams "usually feature people binging on junk food. We need to regulate them just as we regulate TV commercials for fizzy drinks and fast food from 5 to 7 p.m. to prevent children from seeing them."
Doctors fear that watching the broadcasts could trigger an appetite in susceptible people even though they may not be hungry.
Choi Hyung-jin at Seoul National University said, "When the body's taste senses are stimulated, the brain's pleasure centers are activated. Just watching people eat can trigger the consumption of unnecessary snacks or lead to binge eating."
Images of delicious food cause people to salivate because they trigger the secretion of endorphins and dopamine, and the brain remembers that sensation and seeks to relive it.
Faddism is a problem in itself. "Such broadcasts usually feature good-looking people binging on food and having a good time. This can lead to a subconscious belief that eating like that will make the viewer happy too," said Roh Sung-won at Hanyang University Medical Center.
Binge eating can lead to obesity, hypertension and gastrointestinal ailments. Most of the food featured on broadcasts is oily junk food like fried snacks, instant noodles and hamburgers. Also they are mostly streamed live at night, when viewers should not be eating heavy food.
"People usually watch them when they are relaxing at night. If they consume junk food and go straight to bed, their caloric intake turns straight to fat," Kang at KOSSO said.
Devotees may relieve stress by eating and suffer from a form of addiction.
Roh at Hanyang University said, "Check and see if you tend to binge after watching the broadcasts at home and if you tend to watch them when you're stressed or depressed. If you do, you need to stop watching them."