Going to great lengths to look and feel better is as old as time; remember, even the cavemen were on the Paleo diet (ha, ha). But in the last ten years, there have been a lot of weird trends, and a lot of them made us a whole lot unhealthier. From food fads to fashion fails, The Remedy takes a look at the science behind it all.
The natural foods movement went a little too far with this one. Some people believed that drinking “raw water,” sold in $16 jugs plus a $22 deposit, was a way to be toxin-free and one with the earth. The problem? Drinking unfiltered, unclean water is a great way to get a gut full of parasites, bacteria and viruses. The World Health Organization notes that “contaminated water is estimated to cause 458,000 diarrheal deaths each year.”
Ok, there’s just no good way to say this: please don’t put a jade egg “down there.” Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle company Goop raved about the qualities of their jade and rose quartz eggs, saying they have the power to detox you-know-where. By putting a jade egg there for hours at a time, you could supposedly balance your menstrual cycle, “intensify feminine energy,” and cleanse your nether regions. The jade eggs sold out. But in 2017, Goop was ordered to pay $145,000 in civil penalties and offer refunds to settle a California lawsuit due to lack of “competent and reliable scientific evidence.”
Anyone who watched the 2010 World Cup remembers vuvuzelas—those annoying plastic horns that created an ear-splitting and constant buzz throughout soccer matches. The horns weren’t just irritating, though—they’re downright dangerous. The Royal National Institute for Deaf People warned fans of the risk of temporary tinnitus and permanent hearing damage for people near the blowing horns. Tests conducted on vuvuzelas found they emitted 127 decibels—louder than an air horn.
Squeezing into those skintight jeans came with health consequences for some fashionistas. Meralgia paresthetica is a burning sensation or pain felt on the exterior of the thigh, and is normally caused by compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. Wearing super tight jeans or leggings can cause this pressure on the nerve, which leads to tingling, numbness, pain and sensitivity.
Just when you thought fried chicken couldn’t get any unhealthier, in 2019 KFC unveiled the “Cheetos Chicken Sandwich.” The sandwich featured an extra-crispy chicken filet perched atop a pile of Cheetos and mayo, drizzled in a Cheetos-based sauce, and layered into a bun. At 560 calories, that’s about the same as a McDonald’s Big Mac.
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You heard that right. Celebrities and health aficionados alike claim that inhaling canned oxygen is a way to relieve stress, increase energy, and even recover from hangovers. Some of these products claim to give you up to 95 percent pure oxygen, while in reality, they deliver only about 35 percent. That’s still more oxygen than you get naturally, but healthy people just don’t need that much. Once you load your red blood cells with oxygen, they can’t hold any more—it’s a little like trying to squeeze 12 people into a tiny car. And because some of the oxygen products are scented, you’re inhaling chemicals that could be a problem for your lungs.
Perfect for people who want a machine to work out for them. The abs toning belt is a device that promises a complete abdominal workout using “electrical muscle stimulation” that zap your muscles into shape. While the belt might make your muscles stronger, it won’t get rid of that layer of fat on top of your six pack. So, you won’t lose weight or fat to be able to see those strong muscles. If you want to be toned, you’ll need to take off some pounds.
If you’ve had a colonoscopy, you know all about colon cleansing, which uses water to flush waste out of your bowels. But colonics take it to a new level as an alternative to traditional medicine. The idea is toxins in your gastrointestinal system are “flushed” out of your body, which makes you feel more energized and lose weight. A colon cleanse involves flushing up to 16 gallons of water through the colon using a tube inserted into the rectum. Sometimes the water is mixed with herbs or coffee. The trouble is there’s no actual science behind the claims, and it comes with risk—researchers have linked several deaths to coffee enemas.
Low fat and fat-free foods took over store shelves with claims they’re better for your health. We all snacked on fat-free cookies, string cheese, and candies without a care in the world (hey, it’s healthy right?). But in order to take out the fat without sacrificing flavor, brands added sugar and other unhealthy ingredients to their processed foods. A large study published in JAMA found that a low-fat diet didn’t lower the risk of stroke or coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women.
These shoes claim to help tone your butt and strengthen your calves. The curved shape of the sole supposedly made the wearer burn more calories and exert more effort, which in turn led to improved posture and weight loss. But in 2013, the Federal Trade Commission brought a lawsuit against Skechers claiming the claims were false. And a study performed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse found no significant difference in calories burned or muscle usage in Skechers Shape-Ups, Reebok’s EasyTone Reinspire, and MBT shoes.
Originally created in the 1940s, this 10-day cleanse got a reboot in the past decade with celebrity influencers. The idea is to eat nothing but a mixture of water, maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper for ten days. That, and a few cups of salted water in the morning, and a laxative tea at night. The claim? You’d lose a lot of weight, and detox your digestive tract. But experts say it’s nothing more than a deprivation diet that can weaken your body’s ability to fight infections. And because you’re just starving yourself, you will gain the weight back again when you start eating normally.
Touted as a safe way to quit smoking, these battery-operated devices deliver vaporized nicotine in enticing flavors (like bubblegum, pina colada, and coffee). People thought that because there’s no burning tobacco, vaping must be safe. But there’s no evidence that smokers who tried e-cigarettes quit at higher rates, according to a JAMA study, reporting that “among US participants, e-cigarette users were less likely to have quit at 7 months than non-users.” And in 2019 the CDC reported an epidemic of lung injuries due to e-cigarettes: 2,172 cases of lung injury and 42 deaths nationwide.
Teens who spend too much time on social media are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and social withdrawal. According to a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, 12 to 15-year-olds who spend more than six hours per day on social media are almost three times as likely to have mental health issues than their peers. They’re also more likely to have behavioral problems like bullying and trouble concentrating.
Speaking of social media, getting that perfect shot for Instagram can be deadly. There were 259 deaths while taking selfies between 2011 and 2017. Of those, the leading cause was drowning, followed by transportation (taking a selfie in front of a moving train) and falling from heights. In 2015, the Russian government released a guide to taking safe selfies due to the high number of people dying to get a great photo.
Antibacterial soaps promise to kill the germs that make us sick. But according to a study by the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, antibacterial soap is no more effective at preventing illness than washing regular soap and water. But that’s not all—antibacterial soaps actually help breed supergerms. The study found “demonstrated evidence of triclosan-adapted cross-resistance to antibiotics among different species of bacteria.”
Here we go again with the natural is best craze: raw milk. Fans say that skipping the pasteurization of milk makes drinking it healthier because of the higher levels of bacteria present. But since pasteurization kills harmful pathogens that come from sick cows, drinkers of this moo juice are exposing themselves to danger. Unpasteurized milk can contain salmonella, E coli and other nasties. Between 2007 and 2012 there were 81 outbreaks associated with raw milk, including nearly a thousand illnesses and 73 hospitalizations. If you want healthy bacteria, have a yogurt.
A return to natural products and embracing a chemical-free lifestyle has boomed in the last decade. People are stocking up on essential oils, taking herbal supplements and going raw in their diets. For the most part, this is harmless—but natural doesn’t always mean safe. Some dietary supplements don’t live up to their touted benefits, and some actually interact with traditional medications. And certain essential oils can be poisonous to your pets. Oils of cinnamon, peppermint, tea tree, ylang ylang and others are toxic when ingested.
Celebrities and influencers have been criticized for promoting “appetite suppressant” lollipops to her millions of social media followers. The lollipops offer a promise of quick weight loss without scientific data to back up the claim, and since many of their followers are young girls. Doctors worry that touting appetite suppressants feeds into eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
Here’s another dubious health fad: juice cleanses. The flood of “detox” juice cleanses on the market promises to help your body rid itself of toxins, and help you lose weight because of lower calorie intake. But when we juice foods, we’re taking out beneficial fiber (which helps you feel full) and leave all the sugar behind. Drinking too much juice can cause sugar spikes in your blood and give you a headache. Not only that, but our bodies are designed to get rid of toxins already—that’s what your liver is for.
High-tech hand dryers are popping up in public bathrooms nationwide—but think twice before you use one. Researchers have found that those fancy jet air dryers launch fecal matter and bacteria into the air. They actually suck up particles of the gross stuff floating around the bathroom after you flush and blow them right onto your hands. It’s better to just use plain-old paper towels.
Marathoning your favorite shows could be taking years off your life, and in recent years, streaming services made binge-watching so much easier. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that every hour spent watching television shortened life expectancy by 22 minutes—the same effect of smoking two cigarettes. And watching six hours of TV per day cuts your life expectancy by five years.
This risky fad got a lot of publicity with brides trying to slim down quickly for their wedding. Also known as the “K-E diet” for ketogenic-enteral nutrition, it involves putting a feeding tube through your nose, down the esophagus and into the stomach. This delivers a constant drip of fat, protein and water totaling a meager 800 calories per day (the average woman should get at least 1,200 to be healthy). Aside from having to walk around with a tube shoved up your nose, being on a feeding tube is risky and can lead to aspiration pneumonia.
The placenta is an incredible organ that develops in a pregnant woman’s uterus to nourish her baby. The thinking behind placenta pills is to turn that organ into nutrients the new mom can consume. But there’s very little science to support any benefit to taking placenta pills. And there are some risks, since the placenta sometimes harbors dangerous bacteria that can make both mom and baby sick.
In the last ten years, a plethora of high-intensity workout programs have flooded the airwaves (and probably your email inbox). Exercise to a point is a good thing, but go overboard and you could be putting your heart at risk. A study in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that adults who did more than three times the recommendations—150 minutes of moderate exercise per week—could be doing cardiovascular damage. Skip the super intense workouts and do something you actually enjoy to get your steps in.
Energy drinks promise a quick boost to athletes and people who want to stay awake. These non-alcoholic beverages typically have high levels of caffeine and a concoction of “healthy” ingredients. The problem is, some of them pose a risk to your heart. Taurine, an amino acid, can affect the level of water in your blood. Guarana, a plant from the rainforest, can actually increase the drink’s total amount of caffeine. Some people have gone into cardiac arrest after drinking more than one at a time, which led the WHO to issue a warning on the health risks.
The rise of the gig economy freed many Americans from the annoying commute and allows them to work from home or a nearby hipster cafe. It also means that many of us spend days leaning over the laptop on the kitchen counter, or trying to get your phone into horizontal mode while laying awkwardly on the coach, or fighting for elbow space in Starbucks rather than sit comfortably at an ergonomic office desk. “Everyone should be thinking about posture awareness and alignment—especially people who sit all day and work on laptops or desktops,” Eric Holder, MD, a Yale Medicine physiatrist, tells The Remedy. (A physiatrist is a physician with a focus on physical medicine and rehabilitation.) “One of the most common discussions I have with patients as a physiatrist specializing in spine, general musculoskeletal, and sports medicine, is the importance of posture and proper alignment for reducing back and neck pain,” Dr. Holder says. “Studies demonstrate that upright posture can improve a person’s self-esteem, mood. and energy levels,” he adds.
During the last decade, we’ve gotten addicted to our phones. One in ten millennials would rather sacrifice a finger than give up their smartphone and almost a quarter would even sacrifice one of their five senses—touch, smell, hearing, sight, and taste. The convenience of mobile phones comes with health dangers. “Everywhere you look, someone has something in their ears—be it earbuds or headphones—at all times. Listening to loud music is certainly not a new phenomenon. Yet now, as a society, we are listening all day long, bombarding our ears with loud sounds,” Lisa A. Perhacs, Au.D, Clinical Education Specialist at Signia tells The Remedy.
“This constant barrage of sound is doing irreversible damage to our hearing, causing the hair cells of the inner ear to be damaged which results in noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL),” says Perhacs. “Noise-induced hearing loss was mostly seen in the likes of factory workers or military but now it is a common thread among all ages and backgrounds. According to a 2012 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 4 of U.S. adults 20-69 years old have NIHL. That number is staggering, and unfortunately, probably also increasing.” And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don’t miss these 70 Things You Should Never Do For Your Health.