6 Beloved health trends that are actually bullshit
Picture the scene: Your roommate walks in with a bag full of “medicine,” touting it as the latest greatest health trend. “You feeling poopy?” she shrieks. “This stuff’s the best! Everyone’s talking about it!”
And then she pulls out of her bag … a handful of leeches. “Let’s just sicc these miracle workers on your taint!” she says. “Pull your pants down!”
That would’ve been the scenario if you lived in a mud hut in India 2,500 years ago. And back then, you wouldn’t have been able to question her. Next thing you know, you got leeches on your taint.
Modern-day Boulder, Fort Collins or Denver are nearly as ripe with bogus health treatments as those mud huts. But now we got science, bitches, and science will help you the next time some crazy hippie pushes the modern version of bloodletting or humours on you.
We asked an evidence-based physician which health trends are mostly bullshit, and here’s what she said:
1. Detox cleanses
One part lemon juice, two parts cayenne pepper, four parts annoying bullshit. Nutritionists called detox juice cleanses “nonsense,” “unsustainable,” “bone-headed,” and “not the answer.”
But but — we hear you say — I got all this tox in me! I need to de!
Hush. Yes, you are cramming your cuerpo with crap: donuts, Four Loko, and toejam due to your foot fetish. But, what with all those kidneys and livers, the body has plenty of ways to flush out the muck. A juice cleanse recipe from Goop ain’t one of them.
2. Chiropractic adjustments
It’s billed as “alternative medicine.” And, while the “alternative” part is true, physicians say that chiropractic medicine is medicine in the way Beyond Meat is meat — that is to say, not very. “The concepts of chiropractic are not based on solid science,” says this study. And yet chiropractors charge hundreds for adjustments. No wonder Americans rank chiropractors as among the least ethical professionals. There are only a few professions considered less ethical.
The fact that journalism is one of those professions does not necessarily invalidate our claims ...
3. Any alternative treatment that allegedly cures cancer
Nothing cures cancer. Chemo and radiation do murder those little cancer vampires, and kill a lot of healthy cells that surround the cancer, while they’re at it. And that sorta sucks. But the idea of “natural cures” like Laetrile or changing your pH levels lacks scientific backing. Face it: cancer is like ISIS. You can’t cure it. You can only carpet bomb it and everything around it.
4. Cutting out dairy
People say dairy is bad for you. They are 76.7 percent wrong. While many people do have lactose allergies, there’s not much evidence for claims that milk is bad for you because it messes with your hormones or causes cancer. One of the most bullshit arguments against dairy goes like this: “Did you know that humans are the only species that drinks other species’ milk? Gross!” First: that’s false. The Red Billed Oxpecker perches on the udders of the Impala and drinks its milk. And your cat likes a bowl of milk, don’t she? Second: It is true that most mammals can’t digest milk when they’re adults. But the reason humans can do what buffalo and narwhals can’t is because of evolution, and evolution is why we rule. As we husbanded animals, our genome mutated, and now we produce lactase our whole lives. We’re mutants. Goddamn X-Men. Let’s cheers that triumph with some glasses of milk: Here’s to getting out of the food chain!
5. Paleo diet
No cave painting says: “Breakfast: kale smoothie. Lunch: whole chicken breast. Dinner: Fogo de Chao!” Science doesn’t at all support the evolutionary argument saying ancient humans ate only meat, nuts and veggies, and “people who tell you with great confidence that this is what our ancestors ate — I think they’re kind of blowing smoke,” in the words of food deity Michael Pollan. Our ape ancestors were vegetarians, not meat-eaters. And, anyway, why would cavemen be the ultimate chefs? The benefits of legumes are well-documented, even though Grok didn’t eat ‘em. And while it is true that cavemen didn’t eat bread, they also died of scurvy at 17. Your choice.
Yes, Flintstone vitamins were the best thing your mom fed you. Yes, they have gummy vitamins now. Yes, you feel good when you take them. But you get plenty of vitamins in the normal food you eat, as long as you’re not just living on Cheetos and Yoo-hoo, and even then you’re prolly ok. Multivitamin and mineral supplements did not work any better than placebo pills, three different studies found.
Boom. If you want to be healthy, the best way is to exercise, exercise and exercise some more, then see real people face to face. And ignore these health trends.
Actually, many of these treatments can offer some benefit, but much of their benefit derives from the placebo effect. The placebo effect is real and helpful, and comes from you showing the initiative to change, and the brain believing it’s getting help. Hey, that gives us a great business idea. Coming soon to a pharmacy near you: “Santa and Jesus’s Magic Placebo Pills.” Tagline: “The perfect cure for every disease -— as long as you really believe.”