Health scams are a particularly unscrupulous form of con. These prey on our desire to feel and look our best, and in many cases even go after those of us suffering with serious illnesses.
The problem is that people are so ready to believe alternative cures and “weird tricks,” at the same time as dismissing the advice from their healthcare professionals. The human desire for an easy fix – especially during the hardest times – is an extremely strong drive. And where there’s a powerful human impulse, there are people rubbing their hands together ready to make money from us.
In this post, we’re going to break down some of the worst health fads and scams that people are still putting their hopes on – and why they’re ineffectual.
Workouts That “Target Stomach Fat”
This is a very simple example of how we can be misled about our health. There are hundreds of thousands or workout programs, books, and YouTubers that promise they can help us to “burn” stomach fat.
The truth? They either don’t know what they’re talking about, or they’re willfully lying. It’s unclear which is worse!
In fact, there is no such thing as targeted fat loss. That is to say that you will lose fat equally all around your body, and there is no way to “direct it” toward a specific area. If you try and lose belly fat, the first thing that goes may be your booty! The precise order in which you lose fat is actually determined genetically, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to control it.
What you can do is to strengthen the stomach muscles – including the transverse abdominis – which can add to a flatter and stronger appearance.
Hopi candling is an extremely strange phenomenon that involves standing candles in your ears. Yep, you heard right! Often with these health scams and fads, it’s a case of the “stranger the better.”
The difference is that the candle is hollow, and this then creates a vacuum. As the fire at the end gobbles up all the oxygen, this creates a pressure gradient, which causes air to be sucked through your ears. It feels as odd as you might imagine it would!
Why would you want to suck through your ear? As is so often the case, the aim here is to “detox” the body. And advocates will point to the fact that the candle fills with black discharge as proof of this action.
But it turns out that the black substance is not caused by toxins. In fact, a 2007 study published in the American Family Physician1 showed that ear candling had no beneficial effect and may even cause “more harm than good.” That black discharge? Well that was actually candle wax and soot caused by the candle!
Physicians also noted that some patients showed signs of local burning and tympanic membrane perforation, while the process also posed a very real fire hazard!
Charcoal in Coffee
Putting charcoal in your coffee has been a very popular trend for a while now. The idea is that the activated charcoal will help to remove toxins, heavy metals, pollutants, and contaminants from your hot beverages. This in turn works because activated charcoal is porous and contains huge distances of tunnels within its surface. This makes it effective at absorbing bacteria and pollutants, which is why one of the best things you can do if you think you may have ingested some kind of poison is to consume activated charcoal straight after.
So put it in your coffee… makes sense right?
Sure, except the problem is that putting activated charcoal in your coffee will only absorb any toxins or pollutants that happen to be in your stomach at the time. There’s no way that activated charcoal can reach into your bloodstream or brain to remove harmful substances!
Seeing as most people won’t have consumed anything poisonous along with their coffee, this is largely unhelpful. What’s more, is that activated charcoal can still go ahead and absorb all the beneficial nutrients from your stomach! If you have enough activated charcoal, this could even lead to a nutrient deficiency.
After all, charcoal does not know the difference between a germ and a friendly bacterium, nor does it know the difference between mercury and potassium.
Every health site and blogger it seems is currently promoting the virtues of detoxing. Detoxing is, allegedly, a great way to remove toxins and harmful agents from your body and to that way improve your health across the board. The argument is that the foods we consume contain harmful heavy metals and that these can cause us serious damage over time; leading us to feel sluggish, tired and depressive; and potentially eventually leading to more serious health problems.
But the word detox is something that has been a little overused and over-marketed. In fact, there is actually no clear consensus as to what constitutes a detox or why we should ever need to detox in the first place.
In fact, in one study, it was shown that many manufacturers of products such as shampoos claiming to be toxin free, could not actually explain what toxins they were free of! Likewise, many detoxing products could not provide any sensible explanation as to what they were detoxing or how it was of any benefit to users.
In reality, our bodies are equipped with all the tools and systems they need to detox naturally – with no intervention from any detoxing shampoos or worrying laxative treatments.
This has led to many writers and scientists making the statement that detoxing is a myth and that it ultimately amounts to little more than a marketing stunt designed to part us with our money in exchange for no tangible benefit.
Is detoxing really a myth and should we avoid all products with the word ‘detox’ on the front going forward?
If only it were that simple. A quick search of Google will show you that this is an argument that is alive and well with a lot of persuasive points on both sides. As one Huffington Post article points out2, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) conducted a study that discovered 212 chemicals in participants’ blood and urine that shouldn’t be there. These included the likes of acrylamide (the result of baking foods at high temperatures, also a byproduct of cigarette smoke), arsenic, bicephenol A (found in plastics, food packaging etc.), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs – found in paints and air fresheners) and more.
Together, these toxins have the potential to build up and place a serious strain on your body and general health. Then there are the heavy metals that do indeed exist in a lot of foods – just look at the mercury that is found in tuna for example! Mercury poisoning is incredibly dangerous and can lead to permanent damage of the nervous system, which is why a detox is necessary for those that have overindulged in tuna or swordfish…
Likewise, it’s possible for toxins to build up in the skin. This is why pores become clogged and it’s why we end up getting spots.
But that likewise doesn’t mean that a detoxing shampoo is going to help you, nor will many of the other products on the market that don’t really understand what the term actually means. It also doesn’t mean that something like a coffee irrigation (which involves using coffee anally) is going to be beneficial. In fact, this is more likely to cause dehydration and numerous other problems.
Ultimately, the problem is not with detoxing itself but rather with the way that many companies and bloggers have mishandled the concept. What’s important for you, is that you know how to tell the difference between a genuine detoxifying product or strategy, and one that is just a waste of money.
The best advice? Speak with your physician.
This will likely upset some people, but the truth is that homeopathy is a parasitic industry that is among the worst culprit when it comes to “preying on the desperate.”
For those that haven’t done their research, homeopathy might seem like a harmless trend toward holistic, natural treatments. There is nothing wrong with choosing natural remedies over drugs for minor complaints, so long as you seek advice from your physician.
Homeopathy is something entirely different.
Homeopathy basically is based around the theory that a treatment should cause the same symptoms as the condition it’s trying to cure. So in other words: if you wanted to cure yourself from a cold, a homeopathic remedy would be one that caused your nose to run and caused you to sneeze. The inventor of homeopathy – Samuel Hahnemann – believed that this would encourage the body to fight the original cause of the problem3.
The only problem with this is that it’s arbitrary: someone just made that idea up thinking it sounded somewhat logical. Of course when people started administering these cures it was then found that the patients ended up getting more ill and often died.
So instead of admitting defeat, homeopaths decided to dilute their ingredients with water, sugar and alcohol to such a degree that the medication barely included any of that original substance. In many cases, this is done to such an extent that actually none of the original substance is left in the mixture at al. So in other words you’re paying tons of money just to get a pot of water and sugar. Still think your doctor is the one trying to rip you off?
Promoters of homeopathy claim that even though the original active agent often isn’t included in the product, the “life force” of the substance has been transferred to the water. Of course there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that such a life force exists – and it certainly doesn’t exist in bits of herb that have been arbitrarily chosen to cure a laundry list of diseases.
Of course there are absolutely no studies that demonstrate that homeopathic remedies work at all – though there are plenty that demonstrate it doesn’t.
What makes homeopathy so dangerous and so despicable is that it claims to be a valid treatment for serious, life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. Many homeopaths will recommend that sufferers avoid radiotherapy and chemotherapy and instead trust 100% in their pot of water.
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that this significantly lessens their chance of survival.