How Many Of These Unnecessary Health Products Do You Use?

14HealthProducts_1Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
We've all trolled the internet at midnight wondering if our symptoms are normal, or if a bowl of cereal qualifies as dinner. To the rescue: The experts at will share everything from how to ditch that nagging cough for good to quick-hitting workout moves and how to actually eat "clean."
The messages can be seducing: Lose weight without trying. Build muscle without lifting a finger. Wake up flawless. But do so-called health products really deliver on their claims? Not always. Many don’t have the science to back them up, and others may leave you with little more than an empty wallet.
Check out these products that promise, but probably won’t deliver, a healthier you.
Shake Weight
Millions have watched the Shake Weight infomercial on YouTube, Ellen DeGeneres featured it on her talk show, and it's even a Saturday Night Live spoof — but not because of its ability to tone in just six minutes a day. The ad is just so silly!
Experts say the spring-loaded weights on each end of the five-pound dumbbell (or the 2.5-pound one for women) require 300% more effort than lifting regular weights.
While that could be true, even the researcher who led the study on Shake Weight’s effectiveness said he wouldn’t expect it to replace a full exercise regime.
Antioxidant supplements
You’re already taking a daily multivitamin, vitamin D, and maybe even some calcium. But should you buy into the antioxidant hype?
Not so fast. For the most part, antioxidant supplements — including vitamins C and E, minerals like selenium, and supplements like fish oil and beta-carotene — are a waste of money, says Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, Health’s senior food and nutrition editor.
Antioxidants may be helpful in preventing heart disease and some cancers, but you can easily get enough through a healthy diet, she says.
You’d think VitaminWater is made of little more than water and, well, vitamins.
But there’s also 33 grams of sugar per bottle, just six grams fewer than a can of Coke. All that sugar made VitaminWater the subject of a recent, high-profile lawsuit that says it shouldn't be marketed as a "healthy" drink under FDA rules.
While the various flavors claim all sorts of benefits — from helping you focus to delaying vision decline — you’re probably better off eating a balanced diet or taking a multivitamin.
If you need a little zing, try adding slices of lemons or limes to your H2O for low-cal flavor.
14HealthProducts_2Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
RepHresh tampons
As if being female isn’t complicated enough, you have something new to worry about: your vagina’s pH!
Vaginal pH increases during menstruation, but there are no studies proving that this causes a single problem. The manufacturer says that RepHresh Brilliant pH Tampons ("feminine protection that does more") reduce the pH level back down to normal non-menstruating levels, which seems to prey on our fears of problems down there.
At roughly $7 for a box of 18 tampons, you could get 36 or more of another brand for the same price. We’ll stick to regular tampons, thanks.
Barefoot running “shoes”
Barefoot running has been all the rage lately. Hard-core believers jog with nothing between their toes and the pavement, but many have opted for products like the Vibram FiveFingers, essentially a glove for the foot.
Running barefoot seems to help correct a runner’s stride naturally and may result in fewer injuries. However, the jury is still out on whether barefoot-feel running shoes truly prevent injuries.
Give them a try if you want, but keep in mind that they can be pricey ($75 to $125) — and difficult to get your toes into. If you’re happy with your workout shoes, there’s no need to add these to your wardrobe.
Colon cleanses
You can find endless raves — including some from celebs — about the weight-loss and detox benefits of flushing your colon with water in an enema-like procedure.
However, waste material and toxins don’t build up over time; the colon does a perfectly good job of cleaning itself out on its own, says Roshini Raj, MD, in a new book What the Yuck?!.
There’s little evidence of health benefits, and they may cause unpleasant side effects like tummy pain and diarrhea. Plus, you’ll be looking at about $55 to $95 per treatment to get your colon cleansed by a professional. Home enema kits run about $50.
14HealthProducts_3Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Moisturizing clothes
Skineez is a line of figure-friendly clothing that incorporates “anti-cellulite” and moisturizing ingredients like caffeine and shea butter into the fabric of the clothes. (Yes, you read that right.)
"If someone is making a claim that sounds too good to be true, then it probably is," says Sidney M. Wolfe, MD, the founder and director of the Health Research Group at consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, "particularly if it’s cosmetics."
Body heat triggers the garment to slowly release the embedded ingredients. But, with a camisole ringing up for $52, why not just get some lotion?
These mega-supplements have gained popularity as a cure for the common cold. But, the evidence behind their immune-system-bolstering effects is inconclusive to say the least.
“A lot of these supplements make quasi-medical claims,” says Dr. Wolfe.
And, the claims hardly ever stand up to scientific scrutiny: Airborne paid over $23 million in 2008 to settle a class-action suit about its product’s cold-prevention effects — or lack thereof.
Bottom line: If you’ve got a case of the sniffles, there’s — sniffle — no quick fix.
Cool Shapes apparel
These alleged fat-blasting shorts hold ice packs tight to the hips, belly, and butt. Five weeks of 30-minute-a-day wear is said to trigger faster calorie burning and reduce fat.
The company cites research on the effects of cold on fat, but this research had little to do with the trouble areas Cool Shapes targets. What's more, most of the "good" calorie-burning fat that could be stimulated by cold is limited to your neck, shoulders, and upper back.
One of the study’s researchers went so far as to say that the company is misleading the public by using his findings in this way.
14HealthProducts_4Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Thermal suits
When wrestlers or boxers need to make weight, they’ll get in a quick and sweaty workout to drop a few pounds — of water weight. That weight quickly comes back once they rehydrate.
In a similar way, everyday dieters try thermal sweat suits, thinking that they will get weight-loss results. In reality, the vinyl suits won’t help you lose body fat any faster, and they could even make you feel tired quicker from the inability to regulate your body temperature. Worse, excessive dehydration can lead to kidney failure, heat stroke, and heart attacks.
Just crank up the speed on the treadmill and break a natural sweat.
Shoes with a workout
Whether they’re Reebok’s Easytone sneakers ($100), FitFlops ($57 to $210), or Skecher’s Shape-ups ($95 to $105), some shoe brands claim to come with a built-in workout.
While a little extra walking — in any shoes — will help work your abs and legs, toning shoes won’t deliver miracle results, according to a recent study by the American Council on Exercise.
They might help motivate you to move more, however. These shoes can be a fun and comfy way to add a little boost to your daily routine. A little motivation is a good thing no matter what, but chances are you could find a more wallet-friendly one.
Fast Abs
Wouldn’t we all love a quick fix for flabby abs? Fast Abs — and its not-so-distant cousins, the Ab Sonic, Ab Tronic, and Ab Energizer — claim to build muscle and reduce body fat by electrically stimulating the muscles with a massage belt worn around the middle.
As much as we’d like to sit still and jiggle away the pounds, a 2002 study failed to show that electrical muscle stimulation has these desired effects.
Even if a few calories are burned by electrical stimulation, that doesn’t result in fat melting off of one particular area.
Ear candles
Sure, earwax is kind of gross, but even cleaning it out with a Q-tip can cause problems, so why risk using a burning candle to get rid of the gunk?
There’s no proof whatsoever that these fiery contraptions will actually draw the wax out of your ears. Instead, users are likely to end up with burns, middle-ear damage, or even eardrum perforation that can lead to ear infections and hearing problems, says Dr. Raj.
Not to mention, isn’t it just common sense not to put a burning candle near your face, hair, or ears?

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