At any given moment, I can open up my Amazon cart and basically guarantee that it will contain at least one wellness product that I 100% do not need. Matcha powder for the latte I'll never make at home? Sure. Juicer so I can finally turn all those stalks of celery withering away in my crisper drawer into a bright green elixir that will solve all my (possibly imagined) health woes? Please. And yes, I definitely do need another jade roller!
I’m not the only one who’s buying into the wellness culture. The industry is worth $4.2 trillion, according to the Global Wellness Summit’s 2019 report.
Listen, I don't regret all of my healthy purchases. My fancy foam roller truly upped my running game in a real, measurable way. And I will tell anyone who shows even the slightest interest in listening all about how my essential oil diffuser changed my life.
But in the last year, I've come close to buying into at least a couple trends that I later found out were at best bogus, at worst downright dangerous. Here are a few of my near-misses (and to my credit, some that I never got behind).
AKA: cannabidiol. The short definition is that it’s a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana and hemp. Someone, somewhere, claimed that CBD is a great way to treat things like stress, muscle soreness, and insomnia, without the pesky side effect of, you know, being high.
That's all cannabidiol needed to take off. These days, it’s in everything — seltzers, lotions, lattes, and dog treats. Although there are tons of claims out there about the perks of CBD, it's only approved by the Food and Drug Administration for one thing. Epidiolex, a drug containing CBD, was greenlit by the FDA for preventing seizures that are triggered by two rare forms of pediatric epilepsy. Besides that, there's not much conclusive research into the benefits (or risks) of CBD, so the jury's out on whether most of the products containing it really do anything.
Another qualm we have with this particular trend? Historically, “cannabis in particular has been so heavily used to target, to criminalize, and to harm racialized and otherwise marginalized communities," Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, previously told Refinery29. (Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Caucasians, based on data the American Civil Liberties Union has been collecting since 2001.) Owusu-Bempah says the commercialization of the cannabis industry is not all bad but, “I want to ensure that people who have been historically criminalized for possessing and perhaps trafficking cannabis are included in this commercialization." Right now, it doesn't seem like they are.
Vitamin IV drips
Unfortunately, "IV therapy" is not a new trend. Every few years it pops up again, and we hear reports of how celebs and celeb-adjacent party people are getting vitamin IVs after a long night to avoid a hangover.
The drips were a thing again in 2019, but with a slightly different twist. Previously, the treatment was all about hangover avoidance. This year — like so much of wellness — it was about health optimization.
Chic spas and markets will let you choose between different "cocktails" of nutrients that are meant to give you more energy or brighter skin. But, as the name implies, to tap into those perks, the vitamin- and mineral-rich blends are given to you intravenously — via a needle in your arm. Hope you don't hate shots.
One big reason this trend makes the list is because it can be dangerous. Kendall Jenner had to go to the hospital after experiencing a reaction from a for-fun IV drip. They're not regulated by the FDA, and it’s hard to know what you're getting and what quality it is. We vote for getting nutrients and hydration the old-fashioned way: healthy foods and water.
The claim: Drinking water spiked with chlorophyll, a green pigment that helps plants turn sunlight into energy, can affect gut health, skin health, and energy levels. The reality: “At this point, there's just not enough evidence to support it,” Marisa Moore, RDN, previously told Refinery29. “Chlorophyll water is far from a magic bullet.”
A better way to achieve those promised results, Moore says, is to drink plenty of water, move more, and incorporate veggies into your meals. Plus, while the water is a pretty shade of bright green, Refinery29 staffers who tested the drink detected “a hint of dirt.”
Although vaping came into the culture a few years ago, it continued to dominate headlines in 2019. When the year kicked off, we didn’t know nearly as much as we do now about the dangers of e-cigs. The fact that vapes were especially popular among teens was alarming, but at least some of us were holding onto the belief that this was a less-harmful option to smoking cigarettes — not something to start up for the heck of it, but a safer alternative at least.
But this year was the year of realizing stuff about e-cigs. Both the Centers For Disease Control and the FDA are investigating vaping related illnesses and deaths that have been ravaging the country. Here's to hoping that 2020 is the year that vaping becomes one of those "can you believe anyone ever did that?" stories we tell in the future.
High-protein, low-carb eating plans are not new. (Looking at you, Atkins.) And 2019's iteration of the tired old trend was keto, short for ketogenic. The thinking is that when you eat very few carbohydrates, your body goes into "ketosis," which occurs when it begins burning stored fat as fuel, because there's nothing else to use for energy.
The diet, which was originally created by doctors to treat epilepsy, has been around for nearly a century. It really became super-popular in the last few years, and as of 2019, it was officially mainstream.
But it's hard to avoid carbs so strictly for so long. And more recently, research indicates that there may be some risks. People on low-carb diets that are high in animal protein were shown to have a greater risk of early death than those who ate a moderate amount of carbs and more plant protein, the Lancet journal reports. Plus, all that meat isn't so healthy for the planet. And there are the side effects. Keto crotch? Keto constipation? Ummm...
If you really want to try this one out, it's critical you work with a doctor, Melissa Matteo, RD, a certified diabetes educator at Cleveland Clinic previously told Refinery29. People with certain conditions such as gout should not try the diet. "There's also supplementation that's required, because it's so restrictive, and you're really eliminating certain food groups," she says. "I definitely would not recommend it to people without knowing their eating habits or medical history."