Humanity’s history is filled with methods of healing and keeping healthy that are dubious at best. And some of them are truly horrifying – in the past, mummy dust was, for example, considered to be medicine. We are not without dubious health fads today, and many of them seem believable thanks to cherry-picked data and pseudoscience. Here are some of the biggest health fads recently debunked by (proper) science.
Our bodies need detox
Toxins accumulating in our bodies are blamed for a series of health issues, so we should flush them out regularly. To this end, “experts” recommend a diet of vitamin and nutrient rich fluids or other similar “treatments” that promise spectacular results in the short term. Which is bullcrap to say the least.
First of all, our liver and kidneys constantly clean our fluids of toxins. And they do a good job at it – if they fail to do their job, we fall ill and perhaps even die. Certain toxins can build up in our system, of course, but a few days of fasting with liquids will surely not flush them out. Sometimes it takes weeks, or even months, for a toxin to be completely eliminated.
Detox is one of the health fads perfect for selling books and attracting visitors to a blog, but will make little difference for your health. And it can have negative health effects, too.
Paleo is the only healthy way to eat
Paleo diet has recently emerged as the only one our bodies are built to handle. Eating like a caveman, avoiding heavily processed foods and refined ingredients seems logical, which made this health fad become widespread and popular. But it has one fundamental flaw: it is not balanced, as it mostly excludes carbs, and focuses on fat and proteins as an energy source.
Science is the enemy of health fads. And the paleo diet’s time has come: a study recently published in Nature has shown that paleo diet not only isn’t as healthy as promoted, but it can also increase weight gain significantly. To make things even worse, the experiment has shown that it also make glucose control worse.
While a final verdict on the matter has not been reached yet, but the cloud castle called the paleo seems to be shaking.
Antioxidant supplements prevent cancer
If it’s good for you in small doses, a massive dose will be better, right? This logic is at the base of several health fads, especially in the nutritional supplement industry. But things are rarely this simple. And sometimes, like in the case of antioxidants, the initial enthusiasm without the science to back it can backfire seriously.
Antioxidants do fight free radicals, which have the potential to harm cell metabolism – this much is true. But free radicals have an important role in our system – they are used by the immune system against invading bacteria and cancer cells. Our body produces enough antioxidants to keep them from going on a rampage. Taking antioxidant supplements will do nothing but upset the balance and eliminate our body’s defenses against cancer cells. And this can ultimately lead to cancer spreading in our body.
How to avoid being sucked in by health fads
Health fads come and go. The industry built on top of them will gladly bulge out their possible benefits to sell one more bottle of supplements a day. But they often lack scientific backing to their claims, sometimes causing their products to backfire.
Before becoming an adept of a new diet, a new supplement or a similar health fad, wait for science to confirm or deny its effects. This way you can avoid doing more harm than good to yourself.
Istvan is a self-made health and fitness enthusiast, as well as an amateur cook with a professional diploma. He only practices cooking at home, but this doesn’t break his enthusiasm for healthy eating.