Every year, new trends enter the health arena. Some of them run for a while, then leave the scene. Others gather a following and create a lasting footprint. In 2013, the ancient grain family got a foothold. We met quinoa, amaranth, and super freekeh. When a health trend gains traction, it can spread like wildfire—even if people don’t know much about it.
This year, there are plenty of new health trends in the works. Some of them are solidly based on scientific research, while others are questionable or even dangerous. Keep reading to get the bottom line on certain trends, and separate fact from fiction.
1. Gluten-Free Diet to Lose Weight
A gluten-free diet involves eliminating the protein gluten, found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. This diet is necessary in the case of celiac disease, which is an intestinal inflammation caused by an allergy to gluten. However, the diet is becoming a trendy way to lose weight among those without celiac.
More often than not, the opposite occurs. It can trigger nutrient deficiencies and weight gain. Gluten-free products are often low in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They’re also calorie-dense, so eating these foods in excess can cause weight gain. Consuming naturally gluten-free foods, such as quinoa, fruit, and vegetables, is good for maintaining a normal weight, and the only real reason to go gluten-free is if you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.
2. Eating Locally
This is becoming popular because eating with the locals means your food has made less of a journey, and is more likely to retain nutrients. The longer food takes to get to you, the more nutrients it loses along the way. Locally sourced food is also less likely to have contaminants. Additionally, eating locally promotes your local economy. Farmers’ markets are an ideal place to find locally grown food, and are becoming more and more common as the “eat local” movement gains traction.
While this might not seem like a “healthy” trend, it is claimed to be healthier than the alternative. E-cigarettes are claimed to be safer than regular cigarettes, and also deemed a means to help a smoker quit. However, a recent study in the JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that using e-cigarettes didn’t help people stop smoking. Additionally, e-cigarette smoke contains the toxic element chromium, which is absent from traditional cigarettes, and Nickel levels in e-cigs are 4 times that of normal cigarettes. There are many other safe methods to help a person ease out of smoking, and E-Cigarettes shouldn’t be seen as a healthy alternative.
4. High-Intensity Interval Training
No matter what year it is, there is always a new fitness trend that sweeps the world in a matter of months, because people are constantly looking for new ways to get in shape and lose weight. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the #1 exercise trend for 2014. It consists of quick stints of intense activity followed by short rests. While some have found success with this type of program, health experts warn against HIIT, since it’s been found to cause joint and muscle injuries. It also has the potential for triggering cardiac stress. Studies have been conducted in order to compare HIIT workouts to other training methods, and no conclusive evidence has been found to prove that the HIIT exercises will make you stronger, or give you more endurance than other methods will.
5. Reading is Healthy
This trend is less of a health craze, and more just a phrase that is becoming extremely common. Studies have been conducted to show that reading more often can improve your memory, lower your chances of developing Alzheimer’s, lower stress levels—all of which can lead to an improvement of overall health. This particular trend has received attention and backing because many are worried that living in a digital age is diminishing our desire (and even ability) to read. Additionally, living in the digital age is taking a toll on eye health and vision since looking at the harsh light of a screen all day can be damaging to eyesight. Looking at a screen all day gives our eyes less time to rest, because it means we will be blinking less. With the damaging effects of screens, and the health benefits of reading, people are advocating for people to turn off the electronics and pick up a real book in order to improve their lives and overall health.
6. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth to kill harmful bacteria. Typical oils used are sesame, coconut, and sunflower. It can be done in two 4-minute sessions, for a total of 8 minutes. Proponents of oil pulling claim that over a few months, you can expect stronger gums, reduced plaque, and ultimately, fewer cavities. A large 2013 study reports that sesame oil pulling significantly reduced plaque and gingivitis. Dr. Mark Wolff, of the NYU College of Dentistry, states he hasn’t seen any positive effects in his patients who perform oil pulling. In addition, the American Dental Association does not recommend this practice due to a lack of clinical evidence that it works. In fact, if improper technique is used, one can suffer muscle stiffness, intense thirst, and loss of sensation and taste. There’s really no adequate alternative to flossing and brushing to prevent plaque, gum disease, and cavities.
While some of these trends will likely stay around for several years, many of them are ships in the night that will quickly pass when scientific studies disprove their relevance. It is always important to gain as much information as possible about a health trend before jumping on the bandwagon. Every trend will always have pros, cons, supporters, and skeptics, but if you have informational available, you will make an informed decision. It is unwise to adopt health practices without proof or backing just because they are popular.
AUTHOR BIO: This article was written by Dixie Somers, a freelance writer from Arizona who loves to write for business, women’s interests, and health. Dixie got her advice about the health benefits of reading from the professionals at Dr. Bishop and Associates, who specialize in vision care in Calgary.