The 19 Worst Health Trends of 2019
From appetite-suppressing lollipops to the carnivore diet, these health fads have got to go.
Health trends aren't always, well, healthy. In fact, more often than not, those "trendy" weight loss products and diets that you see on social media are backed by little to no scientific evidence, and are actually more harmful than they are helpful. In the spirit of turning over a new leaf for the new year, we've rounded up the 19 worst health trends of 2019.
The pegan diet
Somehow, somebody out there found a way to make the paleo diet worse. How? By stripping it of the few good things it did have—namely, meat and fish—and making it a mostly vegan diet as well.
By themselves, both a paleo diet and a plant-based diet can be perfectly healthy. However, when these two health trends are combined into the "pegan diet," as it's known, they essentially prevent a person from consuming essential vitamins and nutrients. This diet is contradictory, confusing, and unhealthy, so let's just leave it in 2019.
Once upon a time, the manufacturers of e-cigarettes were lauded as pioneers in the wellness space. Why? Well, their revolutionary product was not intended to be a gateway drug, but rather a way to wean off of actual cigarettes.
Of course, things have a way of going horribly wrong, and that's precisely what happened with these electronic devices. In November 2019, researchers from Penn State University College of Medicine found that Juul—the most popular type of e-cigarettes—delivers nicotine about as efficiently as a regular cigarette. While Juuls may have once been a way to help adults quit smoking, they have turned a new generation into nicotine addicts. According to The Washington Post, "Some young people have resorted to stealing from their parents or selling e-cigarette paraphernalia to support their habits."
And then there are the vaping-linked illnesses and deaths. As of October 28, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that there have been 34 vaping-related lung injury deaths on record.
Putting CBD in everything
Today, you can't go to a supplement store, a hipster café, or even a spa without spotting a product containing cannabidiol, or CBD. However, the jury is still out on whether this substance—one of the active ingredients in cannabis—can actually do everything companies claim it does.
"[CBD] has a potential medicinal value, but when we are putting it into mascara and putting it into tampons … to me, that's a scam," Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai in New York City, told The New York Times. CBD might have a place in 2020 as a natural anti-anxiety supplement or even as a sleep aid, but there's really no need to put this product in everything.
Every year, some sort of "miracle" food product becomes popular in the health world as a cure-all for everything from weight loss to autoimmune diseases—and in 2019, the trendy miracle cure substance to try was celery juice. Everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Selma Blair has touted the benefits of the green drink!
However, as nutritionist Lisa R. Young notes in a post for NBC News, "there's certainly no evidence to suggest that celery is a panacea for all that ails you. It's even possible that by overemphasizing one green vegetable in your diet, you're missing out on the health benefits of others." Eating celery as a snack is fine—encouraged, even!—but this celery drink obsession is one of the health trends that needs to go.
In a 2018 interview with GQ, actress Tiffany Haddish revealed her cure for the common cold: drinking turpentine. "A teaspoon of turpentine will not kill you," she said. "The government doesn't want you to know that if you have a cold, just take some turpentine with some sugar or castor oil or honey and it'll go away the next day."
Is Tiffany Haddish a licensed doctor? Absolutely not. And yet, drinking turpentine somehow became a semi-popular health fad in 2018 and through 2019. When the GQ profile came out, Gizmodo even felt the need to write an article titled "Please Don't Drink Turpentine" just to keep people away from this poisonous product. Turpentine is not meant to be consumed, so please steer clear.
Consumers are vulnerable to advertisements that they see via social media—especially when the people promoting them are celebrities. When Kim Kardashian posted on Instagram promoting FlatTummy Appetite Suppressant Lollipops in 2018, they immediately became the health product to try amongst dieters.
If appetite-suppressing lollipops sound too good to be true, that's because they are. "Putting [saffron] in a lollipop and telling people to eat it [isn't] a healthy approach to weight loss, body image, or nutrition," endocrinologist Rekha Kumar, MD, explained to Refinery29. Not only do these lollipops not do what they claim to do, but they also promote disordered eating. In 2020, the only lollipops we want to be eating are ones with Tootsie Rolls in the center.
Weight loss tea
Seriously, though, there is no miracle product when it comes to weight loss, no matter what Kim tells you. And "weight loss tea" is no exception.
In 2019, the Kardashian-backed detox tea became such a big issue that one Connecticut senator even called for an investigation into the product. In September, Instagram also announced new policies that will ban the promotion of weight loss remedies and cosmetic surgeries in order to prevent its users from being influenced by phony products with no science-backed health benefits—including weight loss tea.
Activated charcoal products
Health companies love to try to sell customers on the benefits of activated charcoal, especially when it comes to teeth whitening. However, as one 2017 review published in The Journal of the American Dental Association notes, there is insufficient data to back up claims that this product is safe and effective as a tooth-cleaning paste.
What's worse is that, according to WebMD, activated charcoal is primarily used for treating overdoses and poisonings because it "helps rid the body of unwanted substances." That's really not something to mess with at home.
Yoni eggs—which are jade stones carved into an egg shape in order to be used inside the vagina—took the internet by storm when Gwyneth Paltrow's healthy living site Goop claimed that they could balance hormone levels and even help with bladder control. However, taking the internet by storm isn't always a good thing: In September 2018, Goop settled a lawsuit agreeing to pay $125,000 for the false claims they made about these eggs, and that was the end of that bizarre health fad.
Or was it? As recently as October 2019, Refinery29 felt the need to publish a refresher on the danger of using jade eggs. And in Women's Health, OB-GYN Kate White, MD, warned in April 2019 that "there are no proven benefits of using a jade egg, but there are several risks." We really shouldn't have to say this, but keep the stone eggs away from your private parts, please!
Getting a real tattoo might be dangerous, but it's nothing compared to giving yourself a so-called "sunburn tattoo." In the summer of 2019, Inked magazine reported that these tattoos were becoming popular on social media especially, with people getting sunburned on purpose just so temporary designs would show on their skin. Unless you want to look like Larry David circa 2011, do yourself a favor and leave this bizarre trend behind in 2019.
If you follow anyone from the Kardashian/Jenner clan, then odds are you're familiar with waist trainers. These social media moguls—as well as countless other celebs—swear by them as an easy and efficient weight loss solution, even though they're actually pretty dangerous.
"[Waist trainers] may cause difficulty breathing by constricting the rib cage and diaphragm," certified strength and conditioning specialist Garrett Van Auken explained to Elite Daily. What's worse is that when you use a waist trainer, you're basically torturing yourself for no reason, as these devices can't change your internal composition or the size of your bones. Sure, you might sweat more when you wear one and lose water weight because of that—but at what cost?
"A new Silicon Valley craze could make people sick." This is what Vox wrote about the raw water trend back when it first started to become popular in 2018. Since raw water is unprocessed in order to supposedly keep essential vitamins and nutrients in the liquid, companies that sell it also fail to remove bacteria, pesticides, parasites, and any other contaminant that could be in the water supply. Uh… let's stick to filtered water in 2020, shall we?
In case you aren't familiar, a colonic is a health procedure turned spa treatment used to flush out and empty the bowel. If done too often, it can be dangerous.
"There is undeniable proof that a healthy digestive system does a great job of eliminating the waste from the body without any outside help," note the experts at Los Angeles Colon & Rectal Surgical Associates. People who rely too heavily on colonics experience everything from bloating to colitis, so don't buy into this dangerous health fad.
Vitamin IV drips
Vitamin IV drips became so popular in 2019 that "rent-a-drip" IV lounges even started to pop up all over the country. However, most doctors agree that these drips—which supposedly inject essential vitamins and minerals right into the bloodstream for immediate benefits—are little more than a get-rich-quick scheme courtesy of health companies.
"The whole thing is really nonsense," Stanley Goldfarb, MD, a professor of medicine with the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, told WebMD. "It's just catering to people's sense that they're taking their health into their own hands."
Caffeinated lotions do have some health benefits. One 2015 study published in Annals of Dermatology, for instance, found that subjects who used caffeinated cream on their cellulite twice daily for six weeks saw improvements.
However, doctors warn that caffeinated skincare products can cause something called "rebound redness" if you use them consistently and then forget to one day. That's because when your blood vessels are used to a daily dose of caffeine, they go into hyperdrive and constrict to the point of visible redness without it.
"Let's say you drink coffee every day… then one day you forget to drink your coffee or someone switches it for a decaf and you get a raging headache. You're getting that throbbing in your head [because] those [blood] vessels have dilated even more," dermatologist Susan Obagi, MD, explained to Self about the mechanisms behind rebound redness. You're better off sticking to equally effective lotions that have no potential side effects.
"Healthy" ice cream alternatives
In 2019, the freezer aisle in the grocery store was taken over by "diet" ice cream products. But how healthy are these ice cream products actually? Well, many of them use questionable ingredients like propylene glycol—AKA antifreeze—in order to achieve the same texture as regular, full-fat ice cream.
What's more, quite a few companies use artificial sweeteners in order to cut calories, and "artificial sweeteners affect our sense of satiety," as nutritionist Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, explained to Eat This, Not That! If you want ice cream, go ahead and indulge—because opting for the "low-fat" version of your favorite flavor might just backfire in the long run.
The carnivore diet
Eating meat is good for you, yes, but too much of anything is too much. Try telling that to people on the carnivore diet, though. This strange diet is comprised only of animal products, so it's limited to just meat, eggs, and dairy. Translation? While going on the carnivore diet might give you all the protein and fat you need (and then some), it's seriously lacking in fiber, carbohydrates, and other essential plant nutrients.
What's more, solely eating animal products is a surefire way to raise your cholesterol levels and hurt your heart. One 2019 study led by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that people who ate a diet rich in red meat had three times the levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a chemical linked to heart disease, than those who ate mostly white meat or plant-based protein.
In an effort to keep up with the Kardashians—why does everything on this list of bad health trends somehow relate back to that famous family?—many people have begun to invest in lip fillers. The problem? "When you repeatedly enlarge the lips … the filler can act as a tissue expander, permanently stretching the skin and causing the lips to sag and deflate when the filler eventually degrades, leaving you in worse shape than when you started," cosmetic dermatologist Karyn Grossman explained to Allure.
Electric stimulation workouts
Ashley Graham and Romee Strijd are just some of the celebrities who swear by electric muscle stimulation workouts. This type of workout sends an electric current to your muscles in order to trigger involuntary muscle twitches and supposedly helps you burn twice as many calories in half the time.
Though electronic stimulation is used in physical therapy and in other rehabilitation facilities, its use at the gym is still highly contested. In 2016, Swiss researchers even penned a letter in BMJ calling out the "limited scientific evidence on the safety and effectiveness of this form of exercise," highlighting several instances in which people who used it ended up with rhabdomyolysis, which involves the potentially fatal breakdown of muscle fiber.