21 Overrated Health Trends You Can Skip Next Year, According to Experts
You can stop chugging apple cider vinegar now.
Eating activated charcoal
Activated charcoal has been making big waves on social media recently. People have been using the black, ultra-absorbent powder as a tooth whitener, skin mask, and natural deodorant, among other things. And while it may help for those purposes there is one use you should skip: Eating it. Proponents say popping a few capsules full of charcoal can reduce IBS, improve skin, help with weight loss, slow down aging, and “detox”—but it doesn’t work that way and may have terrible unintended consequences. “None of these claims are backed by credible science,” says Kim Melton, RD, owner of Nutrition Pro Consulting. “We don’t need to ‘detox’ our bodies because we have a liver that does that for us. Plus, charcoal can actually cause constipation and/or diarrhea. It will also absorb other substances in your gut, both good and bad, and if you’re taking medication it can hinder its absorption.” Which happens to be just one of 34 things that pharmacists wish you knew about your medication. Instead, she recommends skipping the capsules and spending your time and money on improving your diet, getting adequate sleep, and exercising.
Dozens of Hollywood A-listers have gushed online and in interviews about sitting in a below-freezing tank. Cryotherapy, the practice of using ultra-cold temperatures on the skin, has some legitimate medical uses, but recently it’s catching fire (ha) as an anti-aging and beauty treatment. Save yourself the cash and the shivers, says David Hitt, CEO of Ted’s Pain Cream. “While it’s not new, it has recently become very trendy with many celebrities trying it for themselves,” he explains. “But the FDA has recently issued a warning about Cryotherapy, saying its purported benefits lack scientific evidence and could pose health risks.”
Cannabis oil as a cure for cancer
Although some research suggests that cannabis oil can help reduce pain from arthritis and may reduce insomnia, there’s no evidence that it can tackle cancer. “Cannabis oil has become quite the buzzword in the cancer community, and while the supplement can help you sleep and eat better during cancer treatment, it will not shrink or cure cancer,” says Snehal Smart, MD, of The Mesothelioma Center at asbestos.com. Despite glowing anecdotal reviews in online communities, it simply is not a replacement for traditional treatment options, she adds. In fact, in November 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to companies marketing unproven marijuana-based products to cancer patients as a treatment or cure. Another herb to avoid? Essiac tea. Thousands of cancer patients try the tea, hoping it will help their cancer go into remission but it doesn’t work either, Dr. Smart says.
Coconut oil in and on everything you eat
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Spend any time on social media these days and you’ll be convinced that coconut oil is a miracle cure. Adding it to drinks and foods supposedly balances gut bacteria, cures infections, boosts immunity, aids in weight loss, and provides a dose of healthy fats. And coconut oil may help with your makeup and hair, too. The problem? People are using way, way too much of it, says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, a nutrition consultant in Dallas. “People forget that coconut oil is a saturated fat and the general health recommendation by the FDA is to keep saturated fat at 10 percent or less of total calories,” she says. Plus there’s the toll on your waistline to consider. “Adding coconut oil to your food ends up adding lots of calories, as oil is 125 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon,” she adds. Bottom line: A little is fine but don’t put it on everything and still keep an eye on your overall calories.
No food after 6 P.M.
Cutting off eating after a certain time can be a good strategy to lose weight, particularly if you struggle with nighttime snacking. You might be better off trying these 42 simple weight loss tips from people who’ve done it, though. Why? Because eating in the evenings isn’t bad for you, and you don’t digest the food differently after the sun goes down, says Parinaz Samimi, MBA, MPH, wellness expert with Sleep Train. “While a midnight snack can be harmful to your health, particularly when you choose junk food, you may actually benefit from eating a healthy snack before bedtime,” he explains. “You’ll sleep better on a full stomach, you’ll be able to better control your blood-sugar levels, and you may enhance your muscle protein synthesis, according to one study.”
Sleep is one of the most powerful factors in our overall health and you should make every effort to get quality sleep—in the right amount. Check out these 13 secrets to a sound night’s snooze from sleep doctors. Just like with fiber and Netflix, too much can cause unintended problems. Unfortunately, a current trend, as outlined in Gwyneth Paltrow’s “clean sleeping,” is to oversleep by aiming for nine, 10, or more hours a night. ” Proper sleep hygiene calls for somewhere between seven to nine hours of sleep per night,” says Samimi. “Oversleeping is actually linked to many of the same problems as sleep deprivation, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, in the research. So Paltrow’s suggestion to stretch your sleep as long as possible goes against common medical wisdom.”
Chugging apple cider vinegar to lose weight
Apple cider vinegar has been getting a lot of attention lately with some touting it as a miracle cure for weight loss or as a way to detox. Your time might be better spent perusing these weight loss ideas: Unfortunately, there is no research to back up any of the apple cider vinegar claims, says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, with Nutrition à la Natalie. She explains that most of the studies on vinegar have been performed on people with type 2 diabetes and, while they’ve found that vinegar can aid in the digestion of starch and reduce blood sugar spikes, it doesn’t help you magically shed pounds—and there hasn’t been enough research yet to see if any of those benefits translate to people without diabetes. That said, there can be nutritional benefits to splashing a little vinegar on your salad—but there’s nothing special about apple cider vinegar, so feel free to use any variety you like, she adds. And there’s no reason to chug ounces of it every day (not to mention that can seriously damage your teeth!).
Eating supplements in place of food
If eating a bowl of broccoli is good for you then how much better would it be to dry and powder a pound of broccoli, package it in a pill, and swallow it? The more the better, right? Not so fast—for example, just check out the problems with these eight supplements. According to Paul Salter, a registered dietitian and nutrition editor at Bodybuilding.com, “There’s been a sharp increase in the use of supplements and with the recent onset of greens powders and pills, many people are omitting fruits and vegetables altogether,” he says. The problem is you lose the natural fiber and phytochemicals found in whole foods. Plus those expensive vitamins may not even be able to be absorbed by your body in those amounts or without the rest of the food, he adds. After all, nature made it that way for a reason. Don’t take a pill when you can eat a healthy food.
HCG drops and injections
Human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone produced naturally during pregnancy where it does an excellent job helping the fetus to grow into a healthy baby. Recently, however, people have been touting the weight loss benefits of supplementing HCG, usually with drops or shots. This is a huge mistake, Dr. George says. HCG as a supplement is tightly controlled for a good reason: Side effects of the HCG diet may include bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, rashes, vision problems, and wheezing, among other things, he explains. But this may be irrelevant as the vast majority of products marketed as “HCG” contain no HCG, making them very expensive snake oil. People may lose weight on the HCG diet, but that’s likely due to the severe calorie restriction prescribed—and that can also be a bad idea. “Very low-calorie diets can be dangerous, according to the CDC. And injection based diets such as HCG show little to no long-term evidence of benefits,” he adds. Not convinced? Consider these seven reasons you’ll never lose weight and keep it off with a fad diet.
Yoga is a centuries-old art form beloved by many—no small wonder when you look at yoga’s impressive physical and mental health benefits. Doing yoga in a heated room is a more recent trend, and it’s one you may want to think twice about doing. That’s especially true if you’re on the high side of 50, says Elizabeth Trattner, holistic doctor, acupuncturist, and specialist in eastern medicine. “I love yoga for menopause, but hot yoga in women over 50 can cause problems like tearing and pulling muscles. I have seen so many women injured this year from straining too much in hot yoga,” she explains. That doesn’t mean you need to retire your mat though! Yoga is still an excellent exercise for all ages and stages. Instead, Trattner recommends yin and restorative yoga, or a gentle flow yoga. In fact, she adds, research has found that this type of gentle yoga can even help improve the side effects of menopause, making it perfect for women going through the Change.
Searches for cleanses always spike in January as people look for a way to “reset” their bodies and lose weight quickly. If you’re considering a cleanse, read this first. These fad diets are a short-term fix at best and dangerous at worst. The biggest issue is that they are fixing the wrong problem, says Constantine George, MD, Epitomedical’s chief medical officer and founder of Vedius. “Your organs cleanse your body on a daily basis on their own without the help of restricting cleanse diets, so it is best to allow your body to do what it was built to do and detoxify on its own.”
Energy workout drinks
Call it a symptom of our modern lifestyle but too many of us rely on energy drinks to get us through the day. Before you pop the top on some energy formulation, you should know that they’re one of 16 common “healthy” products that can be dangerous. Not only are we using these stimulant-laden beverages to make up for lost sleep, but we’re also chugging them in hopes of losing weight and fueling workouts. But while diet and exercise are healthy goals, using untested energy drinks to get there isn’t. “Most are poor quality and can contain unlisted additives that are stimulants or high doses of caffeine. These have lead to many severe illnesses, deaths and ER visits,” says Arielle Levitan, MD, co-founder Vous Vitamin LLC. If you want to lose weight and feel energetic, try the things that we know are healthy and effective like good sleep, exercise, and a clean diet.
These days, the hype is all about supplements and vitamins customized to your unique body and needs. While that may sound like a great idea in practice it’s rarely worth the high price you’ll pay for them, says Rick McCartney, a nurse practitioner, CEO, and co-founder of iRewardHealth. “If you have a true vitamin deficiency, then you should work with your care provider to find the most appropriate way to address that issue,” he says, adding that your doctor can not only correct the deficiency but help you figure out why it happened in the first place and provide ongoing monitoring to make sure you stay in the healthy range. Even more concerning, he says, is that supplements are unregulated, so these companies could be putting anything from wood pulp to illegal speed in your vitamins (yeah, that’s happened) without you knowing. So what vitamins should you take? If you’re eating a healthy diet you probably don’t need any. Save your money and spend it on fresh, whole foods.
File this one under “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is,” according to McCartney. “There may be a way to lose weight fast with only five minutes a day of exercise but that exercise is probably too difficult for 99 percent of people in the world to do,” he says. Instead of trying expensive equipment or crazy intense workouts, find a way to exercise you genuinely enjoy, and build from there. Pair with a moderate restriction in calories and you’ll start losing weight. It won’t be overnight but it will be a lot easier to maintain in the long run and you’ll feel better in the process. Weight loss is an incremental journey, so take it one step at a time, he says. Have the resolution to get fit this year? Start with these 25 simple tips to start exercising.
Using only natural sugars
If you’re worried about sugar intake, use these eight steps to overcome your sugar cravings. And remember that when it comes to calories and nutrition (or lack thereof), all sweeteners—from blue agave syrup to palm sugar to plain ol’ white sugar—are pretty much equal. “I cringe when hearing the term ‘natural sugar’ because it’s hugely misleading for consumers,” says Stella Metsovas, nutrition expert and author of Wild Mediterranean. “There is no real difference in the body processes ‘natural sweeteners’ such as agave nectar or evaporated cane juice or refined table sugar. A sugar is always going to be a sugar.”
Super intense workouts
Pushing yourself to the limit sometimes is one of life’s greatest feelings but our bodies are only designed to handle such an intense load for relatively short periods of time. Which explain why this might be the best anti-aging workout you can find. Following an extreme or overly intense exercise program can actually backfire when it comes to your health goals, says David Prologo, MD, an interventional obesity medicine and weight loss expert. “Exercising too much or too intensely can affect your hormones negatively, impair your immune system, cause dehydration and cause you to lose essential vitamins and nutrients if you are not repleting yourself enough,” he explains. This negative effect is compounded for people who are already exhausted and stressed out. “This is why many marathon runners get sick more often and stay sick longer because their immune system is impaired due to the chronic stress caused by excessive long runs,” he adds. “Find the right balance of workout and learn to replace you nutrient content that you have lost.” Like with many things in life, moderation is best.
Don’t get us wrong: This beloved Instagram meal can be a great source of healthy fats, vitamins, fiber, and protein. And check out what a nutritional powerhouse avocadoes can be! The problem, as with so many of these trends, is when it’s taken to the extreme. “As much as I love avocados and toast, this trendy breakfast can easily add up in calories, Dr. Prologo says. “Avocados are healthy fats, but when you make avocado toast you’re probably eating the whole avocado, which is about 225 calories, then adding eggs, whole wheat toast and all your other toppings. Your ‘healthy breakfast’ can end up over 500 calories, and that doesn’t even include your sides.” Instead, he advises being mindful of food trends you see online and make sure you’re making choices that make sense for your body.
Whole fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat, and juicing may seem like an easy way to pack as many as possible into your diet. Unfortunately, juice doesn’t have the same benefits as whole foods, says Jackie Arnett Elnahar, Esq, RD, CEO of TelaDietitian. “Not only is it expensive to try, but it is also wasteful of vegetables and fruits including the nutrition of the vegetables and fruits,” she explains. “With juicing, the fiber is removed, leaving just the sugars of the fruits and vegetables, which can cause your blood sugar levels to spike. You need the fiber to regulate the sugars and aid in the digestion of the complex nutrition of vegetables and fruits.”
The ketogenic diet
The ketogenic diet, often called “keto,” has many passionate adherents who tout it as a way to lose weight without hunger. And the high-fat, very low-carb diet does have its place—as a treatment for some medical conditions, like epilepsy, says Rebecca Lewis, RD, a nutritionist with HelloFresh. “Essentially, the way people end up using this diet in the mainstream makes it nothing more than fasting, which is not a diet you can maintain for very long—you can’t fast forever,” she says. Plus the rigorous demands of consuming less than 40 grams of carbs a day essentially eliminates healthy but carb-heavy fruits and veggies, she adds. “Nearly all health experts agree that fruits and vegetables are the main components of a healthy diet so you can start to see why the keto diet isn’t a long-term sustainable diet. Not to mention that severely restricting carbohydrates can actually lead to vitamin deficiencies,” she says.
Instagram is chock full of celebrities hawking the latest “diet teas”—herbal drinks that purport to help people lose weight. You’re better off sticking to regular green tea and its many proven health benefits because there are two major problems with diet teas, says Carrie Burrows, MD, of Health and Fitness systems. First, who knows what is really in those teas? Just because something is an herb or “natural” doesn’t it mean it can’t hurt you. After all, hemlock and poison ivy are all natural. Second, they don’t work. “There is no science or any evidence that these teas have any detox or weight loss benefit and it is an unsafe way to lose weight if you are replacing meals with tea,” she says.
The belly fat diet
No one likes jiggle around their middle and so a diet aimed directly at belly fat may sound like a great plan—and it would be if it worked. The basic premise says that if you reduce stress and eat certain foods you’ll burn fat specifically from your midsection. But while minimizing stress and eating healthy foods are great health tips they don’t have the power to “spot reduce,” says Dan DeFigio, a fitness and nutrition expert and author of Beating Sugar Addiction For Dummies. “You simply cannot eat or exercise a certain way to remove body fat from a specific part of your body,” he explains. “When your body oxidizes stored fat for fuel, it will take it from wherever it wants to. Specific exercises or diet plans cannot target fat loss from a specific area. You can get fatter or you can get leaner, but you cannot decide where.”