While the year brought promise in certain areas — we moved away from fad diets; the U.S. surgeon general endorsed walking as exercise; and the phrase “harm reduction” became a buzzword — there were also some major letdowns. So in the spirit of Festivus, we’re airing our grievances.
Here are six health trends that have sorely disappointed us over the past 365 days:
1. Calling pleasurable foods ‘crack’
As members of the media, we’ll take some responsibility for hyperbole on the Internet. The truth though, is that it might be entertaining to play up your love of foods (like cheese) by comparing them to addictive substances (like crack cocaine), it’s a scientifically inaccurate comparison, not to mention mildly offensive to individuals who are suffering from addiction. Just don’t go there.
2. Comparing every unhealthy activity to smoking
While we endorse making healthy lifestyle choices — we could all benefit from being more active, cutting down on processed meats and practicing healthy sleep habits — the fear mongering has to stop.
Smoking is a documented public health hazard, resulting in more American deaths each year than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide and illegal drugs combined, according to the American Cancer Society. Until someone reports numbers like that for bacon, sleep and office work, we’ll continue to enjoy them in moderation.
3. Placenta eating
Perhaps the weirdest celebrity-endorsed health trend of 2015 was placenta eating (honorable mention goes to vagina steaming). Stars like Kim Kardashian and Gabby Hoffman claim that consuming pills made from their own freeze-dried placenta is a postpartum depression remedy, but experts say that there aren’t any clear benefits to be gained from eating one’s own uterine organ. And while there aren’t any known risks of placenta eating, either, post-term placenta could contain bacteria, as well as elements like mercury and lead.
This alternative treatment from Japan claims to reduce stress, alleviate pain and boost the immune system by exposing the body to up to -300 degree temperatures inside a cooling chamber. In actuality, these claims are completely unproven and unregulated by the FDA.
While their had been concern for some time about the risk of frostbite from the procedure, safety concerns came to a head when a 24-year-old employee at a cryotherapy center in Nevada died in a chamber in October.
5. Hangover IVs
When writers and editors at The Atlantic, Vice and BuzzFeed, lined up to try IV hydration therapy, we shook our heads. The elective therapy, which costs nearly $200 and is marketed to partygoers looking for hangover relief, works by pumping saline solution and vitamins into the body via a needle in the arm. In addition to dubious claims about the treatment’s efficacy (is it really better than drinking a Gatorade or eating a banana?) the possibility of complications from a completely unnecessary treatment, such as infection at the needle injection site, worry us.
Here’s a novel idea: Maybe just don’t drink so much in the first place?
6. Vaccine avoidance
While this trend isn’t new, it’s the one we’d most like to see disappear in 2016. Non-vaccinators come in many forms — politically motivated, forgetful, busy and misinformed, but the end result is the same. Low vaccination rates among healthy people who choose not to immunize themselves or their children disrupt critical “herd immunity,” and put the most vulnerable among us at risk for infectious diseases, such as the flu and measles.