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Don’t fall for a wellness scam! 6 buzzwords to avoid and how to do the research yourself

Wellness scams are all over the internet.

Whether it was the snake oil salesman of the 1800s or the Master Cleanse that would cure all your problems in the late 90s, people have been falling for false wellness claims for centuries. Whether we want to speed up our metabolism or gain extra muscle mass, people don’t necessarily fall for false wellness claims because they’re gullible, mostly it’s because many of us are looking to fill gaps in the health care system that may leave us feeling dismissed or unheard. Now, with many health gurus with large podcast platforms and viral TikToks making crazy claims, no one is immune from falling for a scam.

Studio 5 Health Contributor Miki Eberhardt shared how to separate fact from fiction when it comes to wellness.


Steer Clear of Buzzwords

Social media has allowed harmful advice to proliferate. Claims can sometimes be hard to really distinguish between truth and falsehood, but there are a few words that are immediate red flags:

  • Miracle, breakthrough, or secret
    • These should be greeted with skepticism, along with any conspiracy-like language that is hidden info that “they” don’t want you to know.
  • Biohack
    • This is becoming more popular–the idea that we can hack ourselves like machines or computers with the right data, spreadsheets, apps, tracking, supplements, etc. That’s a myth. The true nature of health goes well beyond the physical and includes mental, social, and financial health as well.
  • Detox
    • The wellness industry tends to view the liver and kidneys as filters clogged with “toxins” that need to be cleaned, but the body is designed to detoxify itself.
  • Natural
    • Not only is this term vague, but natural remedies have side effects that rival or even exceed those of standard medical care. Wellness culture talks a lot about “Big Pharma” which has it’s own problems for sure, but “Big Supplement” is even more problematic because it’s largely unregulated.

You should also avoid claims that imply one food or even one nutrient can drastically improve your well-being. Unless we’re talking about the absence of ingesting literal poison, it’s really not going to make or break your health. One food or one nutrient is usually a drop in the bucket in the context of your overall eating pattern.

S.I.F.T Through Information

This acronym was developed by a researcher at the University of Washington, Michael Caulfield, and it stands for : Stop, Investigate the source, Find better coverage, and Trace claims.

Fact check the claim by finding reputable sources like Center of Disease Control, FDA, NIH, and other agencies and organizations that focus on public health. If possible, trace claims back to a primary source, like a study.

If someone is using the phrase “science hasn’t caught up,” that usually means “no research available.”

Address Concerns with a Doctor

Many people may seek wellness info online because they had a bad experience with a doctor, they didn’t get the answers they were looking for, or maybe they don’t have access to quality medical care. But, to the extent that someone is able to go to a doctor that they trust, it might be a good strategy to run a wellness claim by your doctor first. Especially with how easy virtual visits are these days.

Find more advice from Miki on Instagram, @nutritionbymiki.

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