If there's one thing that's constant year in and year out, it's wacky health trends. Every year has them, and 2014 was no exception. While we've certainly made advancements in medicine and mental health, when it comes to our faddish tendencies, we seem to be running in circles.
So what are we hoping to shed in 2015?
Earlier this year, the actress Shailene Woodley went on a press junket for "Divergent", but ended up giving just as much publicity to a little-known trend of eating clay for "cleansing" purposes. She called it one of the healthiest things you can do for your body, citing an unnamed taxi driver's advice and little else.
While this practice is mostly harmless, there are some concerns that adherents could eat clay tainted with heavy metals. As we explained at the time:
While there is some evidence that clays can help remove toxicants from food sources when used in a culinary context, there is no substantial medical evidence that these clays, including popular bentonite clay, remove toxins. And, anyway, most people don't need help in this regard: Our livers and kidneys, if healthy, are perfectly capable of clearing our systems of trace amounts of "impurities" from our environments.
The Blood Type Diet
How is this still a thing?! We're not saying it isn't healthy to eat lean proteins and vegetables in place of refined carbs, as the diet prescribes. We're just saying that has nothing to do with one's blood type.
At the very beginning of the year, researchers from the University of Toronto thoroughly debunked the central premise of this diet.
"The way an individual responds to any one of these diets has absolutely nothing to do with their blood type and has everything to do with their ability to stick to a sensible vegetarian or low-carbohydrate diet," said the study's lead researcher, Ahmed El-Sohemy, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Toronto.
But that hasn't stopped a whole industry of books, smartphone apps and blood tests that continues through 2014.
Edible clay's sinister cousin, activated charcoal, actually does have a medical use: Emergency room doctors use it to treat poison victims, including some drug overdoses. But that doesn't mean a perfectly healthy person can benefit from it.
"It's not a very specific absorber of substances. It will absorb anything in your gut, good and bad," Linda Fan, M.D., attending physician in the department of emergency medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center told Life by Daily Burn. "I wouldn't use it without a medical professional's advice."
According to the Mayo Clinic, charcoal can interact poorly with some medications and could worsen preexisting medical conditions, like intestinal bleeding or blockages.
Tell that to holistic wellness blogs, GNC and even cold-pressed juice company Juice Generation, which launched a charcoal-laced health tonic.
Since there is little confirmed benefit and a whole host of potential problems, we're hoping to just not go there in 2015.
Fun Run Scams
It takes a lot of will and motivation -- not to mention some extra dough -- to sign up for a fun run, warrior race or marathon. How are budding athletes supposed to find the strength to participate if there's a good chance they'll be scammed?
This year, organizers of St Paul's 5K Foam Fun Run were put on notice from the Better Business Bureau for canceling their race at the last minute and neglecting the small matter of, you know, refunding participants. It turned out the organizers had helped themselves to this foam-fingered discount in at least five other cities.
Treating Non-GMO Like Health Food
There are many reasons to be concerned about genetically modified organisms -- corporate control of our food sources, for example -- but health probably ain't one of them.
While many worry about the long-term safety of this food, there is no good research that shows it is harmful. (Then again, there's no good study to show it's safe, either). Just the same, a label of non-GMO is not quite the same as a seal of health, points out Health.com. Instead, it can be employed as a marketing tool to get health-conscious people buying cookies, sugary cereals and other not-so-great-for-you foods.
In promising news, a 2014 meta study of more than 100 billion farm animals -- from the pre-GMO era of 1996 to the present day -- found that giving livestock GMO feed was nutritionally equal to non-GMO.
And, as Mark Bittman explained in a 2014 column, to focus on GMOs is myopic at best:
Someone recently said to me, "The important issues are food policy, sustainability and G.M.O.'s." That's like saying, "The important issues are poverty, war and dynamite." G.M.O.'s are cogs in industrial agriculture, the way dynamite is in war; take either away, and you have solved virtually nothing.