Fads come and go in medicine, like everything else. But unlike the mainstream trends, medical fads can be quite dangerous if not deadly. Science is well researched, yet, it often seems patients rather take their medical advice from celebrities than the medical experts. And unlike doctors and other healthcare professionals, celebrities are not required to support their positions with any degree of evidence. Fad medicine is here but does it need to stay?
A large part of fad medicine evolved around food. We saw the Atkins’ diet and the South Beach diet soar then crash. Now, the Paleo diet seems to be all the rage. This is a diet supposedly eaten by those in the very early stages of human civilization. It is proclaimed to be healthy, yet those we are hoping to emulate had a life-expectancy half of what it is today. And now there is the gluten-free everything. Sure, some patients benefit by this type of diet because they are afflicted with certain medical conditions. It was not meant to become the latest food fashion. There is a healthy way to eat but these diets are just names to make a profit.
And then there is juicing. Apparently, blending your usual foods into a juice is more healthy. Ever notice how much juicers cost? Those companies seem to be making loads of money. Yet, the food you are ingesting is the same as if you actually ate it rather than drank it. Since it is liquid, it passes your stomach more rapidly so you get hungry sooner. If you would otherwise not eats fruits and veggies in their solid form, juicing may be a good choice for you. Otherwise, juicing is just a fad.
There are many apps to track your food consumption. Apps are another fad. Some may be helpful but the app mania has gone far overboard in many regards. Do we really need apps that monitor our bowel movements?
Like diets, exercises are also prone to fads. There are all different kinds that go in and out of fashion: yoga, Zumba, crossfit, etc. While these are great forms of exercise, there is no one size fits all. Whatever works for you is the right exercise to do. If you like to walk and do so regularly, you are not going to die if you don’t know how to do the downward facing dog pose. Yet many celebrities purport their own favorite forms as gospel truth.
Jenny Mccarthy and Robert Kennedy did great damage in the world of infectious diseases. The 20th century produced the greatest weapon against many deadly infections: vaccines. Science supports that vaccines save lives. The evidence is well-established around the globe. Vaccines eradicated smallpox from the world and Polio from the Western hemisphere. However, certain celebrities started preaching untruths about these vaccines and many people fell victim to these fallacies. Anti-vaxxers are all the rage in many areas. And this decision is not based on science but following advice from popular non-medically educated people.
And that brings us to supplements. I have patients bring me reams of paper that they printed off the internet about these supplements. Sure, some of them may be helpful. But, the vast majority are not studied and there is no way anyone can say they are effective without clinical trials. Many sites will post studies on a few people but evidence dictates large populations. More dangerous is the fact that many people feel that they are safe. We again do not know this without studying them.
Fads in medicine existed for ages. Many people follow the latest without putting much of their own research into it. Like in anything else, the trends will fade and many people will be left disillusioned. However, there are some that will be harmed and that is unacceptable. Celebrities and other popular people should be put to the litmus test before they preach medical matters.
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Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.