These Were The 10 Biggest Health Stories In 2014

2014 was an eventful year for health. More than 18,000 people were diagnosed with Ebola (including several cases in the U.S.), spurring widespread fear and confusion about the virus. Meanwhile, nearly all your Facebook friends, along with a host of celebrities, took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge. New research caused us to rethink our stances on saturated fat, artificial sweeteners, and more. Click through for the 10 health topics that dominated the headlines this year.
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Photo: REX USA.
Ebola

By March 2014, the deadliest-ever outbreak of Ebola had hit West Africa; the total number of reported cases is now more than 18,000. Several cases were diagnosed in the U.S., too, sparking fear and suspicion of aid workers returning home from Africa. After the panic subsided and Internet rumors were put to rest, here’s what we learned: Ebola is not always deadly. It does not travel through the air. And, it’s not spread by casual contact; it takes direct contact with bodily fluids to be infected.
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Photo: REX USA.
Obamacare

November marked the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s rocky rollout. What ObamaCare got right: It makes it possible for us Gen Y’ers to stay covered under a parent’s insurance until age 26. It also requires insurers to tell customers exactly what they're spending money on — simply labeling something as an "administrative fee" won’t cut it anymore. But, many have accused Obamacare of taking away too many freedoms — like the freedom to choose not to have health insurance at all. The President’s second term is coming to an end soon, so we’ll see what the future holds for this controversial initiative.
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Photographed by Ruby Yeh.
Saturated Fat

Everyone loves a comeback story, and after over 40 years of being vilified as public health enemy #1, saturated fat was finally vindicated this year. Books like Nina Teicholz’s The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet hit the New York Times’ bestsellers list, and butter landed the coveted cover of TIME magazine. The revelation that saturated fat is not the silent killer we thought it was isn’t exactly new information — the late Dr. Mary Enig, author of Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol dedicated her entire career to proving this point — but for whatever reason, it finally stuck in 2014. Maybe we were all tired of food tasting like cardboard.
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Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Going Gluten-Free

It’s been a fad for years, but in 2014, gluten-free went mainstream. In fact, shunning the wheat protein reached such critical mass that South Park devoted one of its best-ever episodes to the topic. The scientific community hasn’t reached an agreement on whether there’s any benefit to giving up gluten if you don’t have celiac disease. So for now, your only option is to drink the Kool-Aid (it’s gluten-free, right?) and see for yourself.
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Photo: Javier Garcia/BPI/REX USA.
The Ice Bucket Challenge

This summer, everyone from Oprah to Kermit The Frog (not to mention all your Facebook friends) dumped buckets of icy water over their heads to support finding a cure for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral and generated more than $100 million in donations in about a month, making it one of the most successful social media fundraising stunts of all time. On top of that, the campaign actually did what it was intended to do: raise awareness and get people talking about ALS.
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Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
The Biggest Loser Finale

On February 4, The Biggest Loser winner Rachel Frederickson shocked the nation when she appeared on the show’s finale weighing only 105 pounds. The staggering 155-pound weight loss drew a firestorm of criticism and concern about Frederickson being too skinny, with many accusing the show of pushing her too far and celebrating an unrealistic ideal. Both of the show’s trainers, Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, appeared visibly stunned during the finale; later, in an interview with HuffPo Live, Michaels said she thought Frederickson had lost too much weight.
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Photographed by Raven Ishak.
The Artificial Sweetener Backlash

As the old adage goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, and that was certainly the case with zero-calorie artificial sweeteners this year. A study published by the Weizmann Institute of Science found that these substances may alter our gut bacteria, causing glucose intolerance and, subsequently, conditions like obesity and diabetes — the very things people drinking diet sodas are trying to avoid. It seems there really is no such thing as a calorie-free lunch.
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Photographed by Jessica Nash.
The CVS Tobacco Ban

The nation’s second-largest drugstore chain now sells one less drug — it dropped sales of all tobacco products in September. The bold move is part of an effort to build the brand’s image as a healthcare company, and the decision didn’t come cheap: The company’s latest earnings report projected a loss of $2 billion in revenue in the next year. But, what CVS lost in revenue, it gained in reputation and good press, inspiring other brands like Carnival Cruise Lines to take similar steps.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz.
Digital Detox

We’ve all been there: awake at midnight, scrolling through Instagram photos with the nagging suspicion that this probably isn’t healthy... Well, it was only a matter of time until research confirmed our fears. It turns out social media could make us more jealous of our friends, less satisfied with our appearances, and overall pretty unhappy. As such, 2014 became the year of the "Digital Detox" — a self-imposed period with no Facebook, no Instagram, no emails, not even a phone. Yes, it sounds extreme — maybe even impossible — but many brave souls who attempted it lived to blog about it.
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Photo: Europress Photo Agency/REX USA.
Egg-Freezing parties

At these informational, mixer-style gatherings, women sip Champagne and get a crash course on how to scientifically delay motherhood until they’re ready. EggBanxx, the startup behind the events, is marketing its services to young, career-oriented women who want children, just not at the moment. In addition, tech companies like Apple and Facebook made news this year by announcing the addition of egg-freezing benefits for female employees. Of course, not everybody agrees that freezing their eggs is a perfect solution for women wanting to put off parenthood.
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