The spread of health misinformation can have a significant and detrimental impact on a range of health behaviours and beliefs. In the age of fake news and misinformation, controversial health fads and trends can add to the noise and public confusion.

Research has shown that when people are familiar with something, they tend to trust it more – wives’ tales are a timeless example. The media reach of influencers, online communities and even mainstream television shows present concerns due to their influence and the likelihood of consumers to believe what they read or see.

In light of this, it is important consumers are able to differentiate between health fads and concrete medical science and the potential harm that some trends can cause.

The risks

Health fads and unfounded claims hold the potential to undermine public health. Not only do health fads make unsubstantiated claims, meaning that the health benefits are not guaranteed, the claims carry potential harms.

Organisations like Truth in Advertising (TINA) exist to hold companies to account, and famously catalogued more than 50 unsubstantiated medical claims by controversial health and wellness website (and now Netflix show) Goop.

Health fads also present the risk that consumers will forgo medicine that has proven to benefit their ailments, in preference of pseudoscience products and alternative medicine with unsubstantiated claims of relieving symptoms or curing conditions.

Health fads are also not recommended because consumers are likely to waste money on products that will not benefit their health.

How to identify a fad or fact

While there is no formula to distinguish a health fad from medical fact, there are a number of questions that you can consider:

  • Does it promise too much?
  • Does it attribute all of your ailments to one cause?
  • Is the evidence only anecdotal, rather than scientific reports or from boards that support the claims?
  • Who is promoting it?
  • Is there a way to measure evidence that the product works?

If you are suffering from a medical condition or are unsure about medical information, the home doctor experts at House Call Doctor recommend consulting a medical professional for advice.