9 Worst Health Fads That Could Actually Harm You

Did you spend a week on salads and diet drinks only to gain weight? Took the diet pills but didn't drop a pound? Americans spend billions of dollars every year on supplements, foods and gimmicks that

Did you spend a week on salads and diet drinks only to gain weight? Took the diet pills but didn't drop a pound? Americans spend billions of dollars every year on supplements, foods and gimmicks that promise a quick fix for weight loss or better health.

The Federal Trade Commission says $25 billion has been spent on supplements since 2009, with sales going up while the economy took a dive; people started taking their health into their own hands rather than paying for doctor visits. But some products don't live up to their claims and, even worse, they can cause dangerous side effects. So next time you buy into a miracle cure, turn the package over and take a closer look.

How do you make healthy choices when you can't take health food claims at face value? Health products make grand proclamations on their packaging only to be debunked by the latest research. Health fads endorsed by celebrities and celebrity doctors claim to help you shed pounds and toxins but after a bit of time under the spotlight, promising theories are pocked like swiss cheese.

There is a worrying trend in food advertising toward making unproven claims that eating certain foods can improve health or reduce the risk of developing cancer. While some fads fail to produce results, consumers should be wary of the ones that have proven to be downright dangerous.

It can be impossible to keep up with the latest news on what to eat and, more importantly, what not to eat. But whatever theory you subscribe to, be it paleo or vegan, there are a few trends everyone  agrees are really terrible.

9 Detoxing cleanses

Put down that unpalatable green drink. It may help you clear out last night's binge but that's about all it's going to achieve. There's little evidence that all those hunger pains and good intentions will actually rid you of the toxins you've ingested.

There's no doubt that eliminating highly processed foods from your diet and eating more fruits and vegetables will give you a spike in energy. And all that water and lemon juice is good news for your digestive system but when you go back to the burger and fries, any benefits you gained will be immediately lost.

8 Fish oil supplements

7 Sports and energy drinks

While sales of popular colas and soft drinks have taken a slump, sports drinks, vitamin drinks and other beverages making health claims have been taking off. But a UC Berkley study found that many of their claims are unfounded. In fact, the study found that many of the added ingredients can be dangerous.

6 Gluten-free

About one percent of Americans have celiac disease and should be following a gluten-free diet. The rest of us are wasting our money and are suffering through lettuce wraps for nothing. Many of the gluten-free products that line store shelves in the "health product" aisle are high in sugar, fat and are highly processed. So while you may be trying to do something that's good for your health, reaching for the gluten-free version of a favourite product may mean you're getting less of the nutrients your body needs.

5 Fast food salads

4 Filtered water

Don't worry, water is healthy. But filtered water is no healthier than tap water and what you're really paying for is the packaging, shipping and marketing.

3 Vitamin supplements

When it comes to vitamin supplements, buyer beware. Recent studies have found that supplements won't boost your health and some supplements are worse than others. After a number of trials found little evidence that multivitamins have any benefit whatsoever, the study authors have said it's time to stop digging for proof that they work.

2 Fat-free products

Fat has become a bad word. At some point, we started thinking that the fat in the food we eat will inevitably migrate to our hips. So next to the gluten-free aisle, there's a row of fat-free options that promise to help us fit in our little black dresses. But what exactly are we eating when we eat something that's fat-free?

1 Health bars

You're running out the door again with your coffee in tow. Grab a breakfast bar and eat it on the way. Tasteless and dry but at least it's healthy, right? Not necessarily.

There's a bar for every need out there and not all bars are created equal. Take a look at the label and you may find your choice has as much sugar and saturated fat as a chocolate bar. But don't stop there - does the protein come from whey, nuts or seeds? How was it sweetened? Sure, it's better than grabbing a donut but you wouldn't be patting yourself on the back for doing that, would you? As long as you keep in mind that these health bars are a treat, the occasional indulgence won't hurt.

With any health product be sure to distinguish between hype and health by reading labels carefully.


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9 Worst Health Fads That Could Actually Harm You