Top 10: Bizarre Health Fads

Time and time again, we here at AM come across stories that sound too outrageous to be true. Yet, without fail, we are reminded that there is no shortage of people willing to try anything at least once -- no matter how bizarre. The following is a prime example: our top 10 bizarre health fads. [via askmen]

No.10 - The Master Cleanse

Perhaps the longest-lived fad on our list is the Master Cleanse, the detoxification program that consists simply of drinking a concoction of lemon or lime juice, maple syrup, water, and Cayenne pepper -- no eating or drinking anything else -- for a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 45 days. Since 1941, Stanley Burroughs, master of the Master Cleanse, has been promoting his program as a means to rid the body of toxins. Not surprisingly, the lack of macro-nutrients and vitamins can lead to headaches, fatigue and constipation, not to mention that any weight lost is usually replaced once old food habits resume (like that wacky “eating” thing people seem so attached to). But, with a hefty amount of celeb support, the Master Cleanse will probably be around for many years to come.

No.9 - Biotape

Building on our last example of health fads gone wrong is Biotape, the pain-relieving tape disseminated by Smart Inventions Inc. Made of a space-age conductive Mylar that connects broken circuits that cause pain, Biotape and its makers fell flat when confronted by the Federal Trade Commission, having to settle for $2.5 million in consumer refunds. The product’s website is still functional, but can now only claim that the tape connects the broken chi in all of us. Who knew that our chi was broken?

No.8 - Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet

You’ve probably seen the infomercials on the Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet, a breakthrough in science that was first marketed as a pain-relief product, but then went on to promise those who wear it enhanced performance, balance and vitality. How did it achieve its magical effects? Ionization, of course. Not surprisingly, when tested, the Q-Ray was not ionized at all and its makers were court-ordered to turn over $16 million in profits as refunds to consumers due to false advertising.

No.7 - Ear Candling

When you place a long, hollow cone coated in beeswax or paraffin into your ear and let it burn, a subtle vacuum effect is created in the ear canal. This vacuuming effect reportedly draws ear wax out of the ear and thus cures a wide range of medical problems, such as ear aches, sinus infections, headaches and even vertigo -- at least that’s what proponents of ear candling claim. Of course, there is absolutely no medical support for these claims, and instead, serious reports of burns and even punctured ear drums have surfaced. Topping things off, experts even cite that ear candling offers no help for the simple management of ear wax. Next!

No.6 - Ozone Therapy

The use of triatomic ozone (O3) in medicine, referred to as ozone therapy, is nothing new. The process actually dates back to 1856 when ozone was first used to sterilize surgical equipment. Fast forward to the present and it’s still being used extensively in sterilization, extending now to food and water. Beyond sterilization, the bizarre act of infusing the blood or body cavities with ozone has been met with contentious debate, particularly since doing so can pose major health risks. Until these issues are clarified, do yourself a favor and steer clear.

No.5 - Colonics

Remember the whole Michael Phelps and Kellogg’s debacle? While it was undoubtedly a contentious issue, it was almost ironic when you consider that Kellogg’s, a company attempting to uphold moral virtue, was founded by John Kellogg, a man who insisted on the importance of performing regular yogurt enemas and who discouraged female masturbation by use of carbolic acid mutilation. While colonic cleansing does have its place in medicine -- before radiological endoscopy for example -- regular colonic cleansing is dangerous and should be discouraged.

No.4 - Cow Urine

For our next bizarre health fad, we turn our attention to a South Asian nation of one billion -- India. The cow is a sacred creature in India, to such an extent that India's biggest and oldest Hindu nationalist group, the Cow Protection Department of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), hopes to turn cow urine into the next soft-drink craze. The RSS has been steadily building hype for cow urine over the past few years, promoting the liquid as a cure for a range of ailments including liver disease and, of course, cancer. By the end of this year, RSS hopes to release its "cow cola" to the masses, assuring the public that it will taste great. The taste, however, may be of little concern, considering that imposters have already begun selling knock-off buffalo urine as the real thing.

No.3 - Bee Venom

What better way to find out if you are fatally allergic to bee venom than by deliberately letting yourself get stung in the name of health? Welcome to the practice of bee venom therapy, whereby therapists apply bee venom to specific points on the surface of the body to cure or reduce symptoms of arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, herpes, and even breast cancer. Although the practice is rare in the Western world, bee venom therapy is still abuzz in China, being offered as one of an exhaustive list of folk remedies at any of the 3,000 or so traditional folk medicine clinics across the country. While apitherapy (the medicinal use of bee products, such as honey) has some medicinal usefulness, the claims for bee venom therapy are just too far-fetched to believe.

No.2 - Malariotherapy

It shouldn’t take a lot of smarts to pick up a brochure entitled Malariotherapy and promptly deposit it into the nearest trash can, yet for a fad to even exist there must be at least someone who’s tried it. Since the early 1980s, Dr. Henry Heimlich (of Heimlich Maneuver fame), has been touting the deliberate infection of malaria (a mosquito-borne disease) as therapy for a variety of ailments including Lyme disease, syphilis, and, most recently, AIDS. Yes, AIDS, a disease that attacks the immune system. Thankfully, the FDA, the CDC and numerous clinical experts have strongly rejected the practice.

No.1 - Tapeworm Diet

Anytime your dieting involves sharing your semi-digested foodstuffs with a parasite, more specifically a five meter-long beef tapeworm, it’s likely you’re taking your diet a little too far. This is the tapeworm diet, an archaic diet introduced in the early 20th century. The idea behind the tapeworm diet is rather simple, albeit stupid: Swallow a bunch of beef tapeworm pills, happily consume excess calories as your food is now being partially digested by your newfound friend, and then take medicine to rid your guest once they’ve overstayed their welcome -- fantastic! This obviously dangerous diet fell out of favor rather quickly once the FDA intervened, banning this wildly unsubstantiated fad.

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