Whether it’s a magic cleanse or exotic fruit, America’s get-healthy-quick schemes seem to be at an all-time high.
But most of these are just passing fads that only serve to sap your time and drain your bank account.
We’ve put together a list of some of the worst health trends that still persist today.
Coconut water may be nature’s version of Gatorade, but some brands have already caught fire for over-hyping the nutrient content.
Vita Coco agreed to settle a $US10 million class action lawsuit over an independent study that showed the drinks didn’t pack near as many electrolytes as advertisements implied.
Plus, some coconut water products are also loaded with added sugar. Instead, pick up your own young green coconuts on the cheap from an Asian produce market. Just crack them open with a cleaver, and pop in a straw.
More Americans may be going au naturel, but what are you really paying for?
There’s no clear-cut regulation on what makes food “natural,” which means just about any company can slap that label on its packages, add a fancy “green” design, and jack up the price.
Says Andrew Schrage of MoneyCrashers: “Before buying any food that is touted as being ‘all natural,’ take a look at the ingredient list before you check out. Keep in mind that butter and salt are indeed natural ingredients. So stocking up on natural foods may not achieve anything other than increasing your grocery bill.” (Not to mention, your waistline.)
When it comes to ridiculous-looking toning shoes and clothing designed to help shed pounds faster, you might want to hold off.
Reebok’s already paid $US25 million to consumers for allegedly over-marketing the weight loss power of its toning shoes. And the one study that seems to support the claim that tight-fitting threads help burn more calories only involved about 15 participants.
“I think there are much simpler and less expensive ways the average person can bump up calorie burn and build strength,” says Shape.com’s Liz Neporent. “For instance,
and hill work. These workouts certainly have the science behind them.”
People really will do anything to shed pounds, even if it means injecting themselves with hormones made from a woman’s placenta.
The FDA ordered companies to stop selling HCG (a protein made in the placenta and passed through pregnant women’s urine) after it was used in conjunction with low-calorie diet regimens. A 40-day kit sells for $US120, but the hormone’s only been approved for use in fertility treatments.
Per the MayoClinic: “HCG is not approved for over-the-counter use, nor has it been proved to work for weight loss. Companies that sell over-the-counter HCG weight-loss products are breaking the law.”
Here’s a trend that makes nutritionists’ blood boil: the idea that people can purge their bodies of toxins by consuming different variations of liquid diets.
“What consumers need to know is that your body naturally detoxifies itself through our lungs, skin, and kidneys,” she said. “Sweat it out, breathe it out, and eliminate. Eating a clean diet daily will give you the feeling you are looking forward to at the end of your depriving cleanse, so get started. Besides, cleanses are unnatural and typically based on eliminating food groups and/or foods altogether.”
Batayneh calls this one of the worst weight-loss myths out there and another attempt to play on the low-carb fad sparked by the Atkin’s diet.
“A gluten-free diet does not necessarily mean a low-carb diet,” she says. “A person who eats gluten-free can ingest plenty of carbohydrates from gluten-free breads, pastas, cereals, and baked goods, as well as vegetables, fruits, beans, and legumes.”
Gluten-free lifestyles have been proven to ease symptoms of Autism in children and, obviously, are vital to anyone with a gluten allergy. But “if you don’t have a medical reason for following a gluten-free diet, there’s probably no benefit,” says Tricia Thompson, R.D., founder of glutenfreedietitian.com.
Weight loss has much to do with portion control, but those helpful little 100-calorie snack packs are nothing but a big budget suck.
“We have portion distortion in this nation, and even though I like that [100-calorie packs] are pre-portioned, that can be a more expensive option,” Batayneh says.
Instead, keep a measuring cup in your desk drawer to scoop out perfect portions of whatever you’re munching on at work (almonds, trail mix, etc.) rather than paying more for packaging.
There are no clinical studies that support claims that antioxidants in Acai berries will make you live longer, help you fly, smooth your crow’s feet, or anything else.
“We’ve had waves of costly ‘super juices’ in the marketplace that were nothing more than fruit juice,” says clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas. “Testing chemical properties in a laboratory is completely different once the product is pasteurized. There is no possibility of processing a super-fruit to compete with the natural form (i.e. a handful of berries).”
The Acai berry’s popularity in the U.S. spawned a new wave of consumer scams involving “free trial offers” for smoothies, juices, and other products.
Zero-calorie sodas have also been linked to a slew of nasty diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
If you’re looking to kick the habit, try weening yourself off slowly with fizzy substitutes like seltzer water or reducing your portion size bit by bit.