The Most Overhyped Wellness Promises, Debunked
Here's some healthy skepticism about Keto, colonics, charcoal, and more.
Juan Moyano / Stocksy
We'll be updating this list as new studies—and more nonsense trends—emerge.
Raise your hand if you have a friend who’s tried one of the following in the name of wellness: apple cider vinegar, gluten-free food, colonics, or detoxing? How about the friend who avoids microwaves and antiperspirant to protect themselves from “radiation” and “toxins,” respectively? Or the one who swears that the crystals in their bedroom are responsible for all the positive changes they’ve made recently? Yeah, that one. Those ones. This list is for them. And for you, to share with them when you’re at a loss for words.
Behold our ever-growing list of today’s most pervasive wellness lies (or are they misunderstandings? Misguided hopes and dreams*?). Click through on each one for a clear, deeply researched, as-definitive-as-possible explanation, gathered from experts and years of scientific research. You won’t find any thin claims based on small studies or experiments on cells or mice, unless we’re using them to point out how insufficient the research is on a given subject.
In some of these cases, the body of research continues to develop. There may be a time when, say, there’s a probiotic on the market that is proven to improve your mood. But until that time arrives, it’s worth saving your time and money and keeping an eye on the research. Here, in no particular order, we’re setting the record straight on the the most overhyped health and wellness promises out there today.
*Granted, magical cure-alls are very appealing to people short on time and in a country where healthcare is expensive. But until the "cures" actually live up to their marketing hype, the solution is to do the difficult, boring, and not-Instagrammable things that are shown to work—get enough sleep, work out regularly, drink water, don’t drink too much alcohol or do too many drugs, eat a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and not that much meat, and manage stress (lol).
1. Pink himalayan salt isn’t more “nutritious” than regular table salt.
While it may contain higher trace amounts of some minerals, the amounts are insignificant and afford no additional health benefits. Read the full story.
5. “Natural sugars” like agave syrup and coconut sugar aren’t any better for you than the refined white stuff.
All sweeteners are basically the same in terms of calories and nutrients. Read the full story.
14. Dark chocolate is probably not better for you than other sweets.
Studies that have found a connection between chocolate consumption and better health merely show that there’s an association; they don’t prove that chocolate is the reason. Read the full story.
15. Gluten is perfectly fine for the vast majority of people.
The only legitimate reasons to cut it out of your diet are if you have celiac disease or you experience stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea after eating it. Read the full story.
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19. Oil pulling is not dental care.
If oil pulling with coconut oil is doing anything for your oral health, it's likely from the mechanical motion of swishing, not because it’s disinfecting or “detoxing” your mouth. Read the full story.
23. Red yeast rice supplements aren’t that effective at lowering cholesterol.
Oh, and there’s no way to confirm how much of the active compound there is in the supplement you’re buying. Read the full story.
27. You do not need a colonic to power-wash your intestines.
If you’re constipated, there are safer, cheaper things to try, and if you’re doing it for weight-loss reasons, you’re just paying to have someone give you diarrhea. Read the full story.
30. You can’t cure depression by working out.
Exercise is great for people with compromised mental health (and almost everyone!), but it is not a substitute for other treatments like therapy and medication. Read the full story.
33. Food intolerance tests are based on shoddy science.
Many of the food intolerance tests sold online screen for antibodies for that could merely mean you were recently exposed to a certain food, not that your body is sensitive to it in any way. Read the full story.
34. Eating soy isn't going to give men boobs.
Soy doesn’t cause feminizing effects on men, even for people in Asian countries who get way, way more of their protein from soy than Americans. Read the full story.
37. You don't need to work out on an empty stomach to lose fat.
A single, pre-breakfast workout may burn more fat than a workout done after eating, but after a few weeks your body adapts and there’s no difference. Read the full story.
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