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.
2. Lectins are not bad for you.
This family of protein compounds found in beans and other plants do not make those plants bad for you. Read the full story.
3. Probiotics probably can’t boost your mood, your immune system, or your overall wellness.
They might help with irritable bowel syndrome, though. Read the full story.
4. Kombucha isn't making you any healthier.
Yes, it has some buzzy-sounding probiotics in it, but they’re not doing anything for you. 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.
6. Antiperspirant does not cause breast cancer.
The active ingredient, aluminum, can stain your clothes, though. Read the full story.
7. "Alkalizing" your body with alkaline water (or anything else) is not a thing.
You can’t change your body’s pH through what you eat, nor would you want to. Read the full story.
8. Apple cider vinegar is good for salads.
Not for treating your acid reflux or curing your acne. Read the full story.
9. You don’t need to detox with a juice cleanse.
Your body has a built in detoxification system in the form of your liver and kidneys. Read the full story.
10. Activated charcoal is only helpful if you’re in the ER and need your stomach pumped.
It’s not a detox for your skin or your digestive system. Read the full story.
11. Charcoal toothpaste doesn’t strengthen your teeth.
And it might wear away your enamel. Read the full story.
12. The ketogenic diet isn’t a magical weight-loss trick.
It works like every other diet by putting you in a caloric deficit, but it could also lead to nutritional deficiencies. Read the full story.
13. Lemon water will not boost your metabolism.
It won’t detox your body either, but the acid content can eat away at your tooth enamel. 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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16. You can’t sweat out toxins.
Sweating is a bodily function that regulates temperature when you’re hot, not a means of excreting waste or removing toxins. Read the full story.
17. Infrared saunas do not detox you or burn fat.
Yes, they heat you up and you will sweat, but any weight you’ll lose is water weight. Read the full story.
18. Coconut oil will not help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol, or kill germs or viruses.
The eczema relief does seem to be legit, though. Read the full story.
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.
20. The claims about collagen supplements are way overhyped.
Taking them won’t give you nicer skin or better hair. Read the full story.
21. Weighted blankets aren’t a treatment for mental health issues.
Some people like sleeping under them, though. Read the full story.
22. Organic cotton tampons and menstrual cups aren’t safer.
They don’t protect you from toxic shock syndrome (TSS). 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.
24. You should not eat your placenta.
There’s zero proof that it can have positive effects on depression, lactation, or maternal bonding, and it is potentially harmful. Read the full story.
25. Microwaves are not bad for you.
They do not cause cancer or zap all the nutrients out of your food, and are perfectly safe to use. Read the full story.
26. Crystals do not store healing, stress-relieving energy.
There is some magic there, but it’s in your mind. 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.
28. Don’t drink red wine because you think it’s healthy.
Drink it because it’s delicious. Read the full story.
29. Epsom salts don't relieve muscle pain.
And hot baths may actually make things hurt more. 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.
31. Meditation isn’t always soothing.
For some people, it can lead to hyper-arousal, sensitivity to light and sound, and intense negative emotions. Read the full story.
32. Cryotherapy doesn’t help your muscles recover.
The science is hardly conclusive that shocking your body in a frigid chamber reduces inflammation and curbs muscle pain. 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.
35. The birth control pill does not cause breast cancer.
Studies that have found an association have found only that—a link. And it’s a small one. Read the full story.
36. Hydrogen water isn’t better water.
There’s no evidence that hydrogen water—in which the H2O contains extra H molecules—will have anti-inflammatory effects in healthy people. 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.
38. Vitamin IV drips don’t do anything for healthy people.
They can, however, help those who have conditions—like celiac disease—that make it harder to absorb nutrients. Read the full story.
39. The fat-burning effects of high-intensity interval workouts have been exaggerated.
But HIIT does take less of your time than long workouts. Read the full story.
40. The concept of a “superfood” is misleading.
Blueberries, kale, or any single food won’t make you healthier. Read the full story.
41. There’s no reason for healthy people to avoid nightshades.
No, nightshade fruits and vegetables don’t cause inflammation. Read the full story.
42. Celery juice won’t cure your health problems.
And eating whole celery is probably better for you than drinking it. Read the full story.
43. You can lose weight without cutting carbs.
Going low-carb isn’t a sustainable diet in the long term, or a particularly healthy one. Read the full story.
44. There are no known health risks associated with eating genetically modified foods (GMOs).
Corn, soybeans, and other foods that are genetically modified are safe to eat. Read the full story.
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