From mouth taping during sleep and cooling mattresses to various fasting protocols and countless gadgets and supplements, the biohacking trend has shown steady growth in the past decade. Taglines such as “biohack your skin”, “biohack your life”, “biohack your sleep” and more have become buzzwords for wellness brands to pique the interest of a growing audience of consumers keen on overcoming a health issues, optimizing their well-being and living a longer and healthier life.
Biohacking has become a growing trend in the past ten years.
It’s easy for wellness companies to tweak their messaging to fit the biohacking bucket and jump on the bandwagon.
Look for third-party research and scientific evidence before buying a biohacking product.
Don’t listen to all the influencers blindly.
But are those biohacking modalities worth the investment? How do you know if they are efficacious? Let's take a look at the ways you can avoid biohacking scams.
What is biohacking?
Biohacking by definition is “changing the environment around you and inside of you, so that you can have full control over your own biology,” Dave Asprey, best-selling author, told Healthnews.
Asprey has been at the forefront of making biohacking mainstream through his books, talks, conferences and long-standing podcast. While he has made biohacking “trendy”, such practices go back far beyond modern times.
What was natural to our ancestors — such as waking up with the sun, sleeping in complete darkness and practicing longer periods of fasting — are now all considered “biohacks”.
Additionally, modalities that encourage a resilient body, mind and spirit, including meditation, cold and hot contrast therapy, breathwork, vigorous activity and adequate nutrient intake, are all a form of biohacking.
With innovations in technology, the industry has seen a rise in biohacking tech that claims to not only help you hack your biology more efficiently and conveniently but also to track and test how such modalities impact your physiology. Think red light therapy, cryotherapy, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, vitamin IV’s, wearables, meditation apps, and devices to name a few.
Do they all work? How do you know whether one brand is worth your money over another?
Biohacking – proven or just a scam?
Asprey explained that a scam can be one of two things. It’s either “someone is intentionally deceiving you. They are telling you to do something that they know doesn’t work, so they can make money.” On the other hand, it can be that they just don’t know the whole truth themselves.
There are times people believe something works, but over time, we figure out it doesn’t.Dave Asprey
There are still a lot of questions surrounding many biohacking modalities that have yet to be fully understood. However, because there are a lot of anecdotal success stories, and some scientific ones too, it’s easy for health brands to put their product in that biohacking bucket with just a slight tweak in their messaging.
Elias Arjan, speaker, analyst and researcher on longevity, healthspan and biotechnology, told Healthnews that with biohacking being a “hot” term right now, it’s easy for health and wellness brands to put a facade on top of their existing product, or idea and get people to pay attention.
What they [brands] are doing, they are going to find some mechanism of action and make it sound like that their product is hacking that thing. It doesn’t even have to be scientific.Elias Arjan
Another aspect to keep in mind is that quality matters. Take red light therapy panels, for example. Arjan explained that based on his research there are two to three facilities in China that build all the red light therapy panels for companies globally. The only difference is that some companies want higher quality materials and higher quality LEDs and some want lower quality, yet they look the same. “To the novice, you won’t know the difference,” he said.
Asprey brought up the same point saying some will “flicker, have high EMFs (electromagnetic fields), will not be the right spectrum, or aren’t powerful enough. Yet how’s anyone gonna know? They won’t.”
That’s why choosing from an established and reputable brand is key when you’re shopping for a biohacking product.
7 tips to avoid biohacking scams
After talking to both Arjan and Asprey, we have gathered a list of best practices to follow when you are shopping for your next biohacking modality. Here are seven tips to help you avoid scams and make sure your purchase is an evidence-based decision.
1. Be a skeptic
Don’t let your own biases, beliefs, or liking of a certain “influencer” override the importance of doing research before buying a product.
Due to the nature of biohacking being relatively new in our vocabulary, there are many unanswered questions and ongoing studies to shine a light on how certain modalities impact various physiological mechanisms. By all means, keep an open mind, but also question everything you see, read and hear.
2. Question messages from influencers
The same way physicians are pushing pharmaceuticals because they’re getting paid to do it, influencers are pushing their affiliate code because they’re getting paid to share the brand. Go the extra mile to do your own research or seek out professional help to guide you.
Arjan explained that the algorithmic social media system, as it is right now, is designed to amplify the most divisive and controversial content, and that means the people who rise to the top of the system are the most outspoken radical voices—as opposed to the sensible majority. In other words, don’t let the social media algorithm drive your decisions.
3. Third-party and scientific proof
Make sure the brand has done clinical validation of their product in a way that’s not biased or predominantly anecdotal. Keep your eyes peeled whether the company is doing the extra work to conduct university-backed research studies that test the efficacy of their product.
4. Supplement safety
To avoid any toxins in supplements, look for Good Manufacturing Practices qualifications to ensure quality standards were met by the company or whether it’s been created in an FDA-cleared lab.
There are many dietary supplements on the market today that promise “miracles” and are described as a “breakthrough formula”, so be sure to check the validity of those products.
Healthnews recently covered this topic and talked to experts on how to avoid supplement scams and fraudulent longevity vitamins.
5. Seek out unbiased reviews
Look for unbiased reviews, such as Consumer Reports, and other reputable organizations that are not just influencers. Arjan recommended few thought leaders to consider looking up—Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Dr. Andrew Hubermann, Peter Attia, MD.
You could even find biohacking groups on various social platforms where people share their experiences. These can serve as a safe place for you to learn more and ask questions.
6. Question the so-called quantum tech
Arjan considers quantum a major red flag. You may find that some biohacking tech companies resort to quantum fields as the explanation for why their product works and leave out any scientific evidence. But Arjan said “for me, it’s a huge red flag,” adding “there should be some relatively scientific description of a biological or neurological pathway or even common sense as to how it’s working.”
7. Ask health professionals for advice
Reading and interpreting scientific papers can be difficult if you’re not in the industry. Not everyone is well-versed enough in health terminologies to understand a research paper. However, it shouldn’t create a barrier to making the right choice, especially if you’re buying an expensive piece of biotech. Take the time to reach out to a health professional for advice and ask for their opinion on a purchase you’re not sure of. After all, they have your best interest in mind, are unbiased, and have the expertise to advise.
Continuous research is essential
There’s a continued evolution of knowledge of biohacking. Studies are frequently published about new modalities, supplements and pieces of biotechnology and their impact on human physiology. We don’t know what we don't know yet.
Hence, it’s smart to be cautious when diving into any of the hottest biohacks floating around on the internet, especially those talked about on social media and promoted on podcasts.
I don’t know of any biohacking companies out there who are actively scamming people, other than some of the multi-level marketing things,... the worst I’ve seen is people overstating what supplements can do. That’s usually smaller companies that don’t know what they’re doing, or potentially internet marketers doing bad things.Dave Asprey
Be aware of companies overcharging for products. Asprey mentioned he has “seen some absolute junk stuff on Amazon,” but has also come across “stuff that’s decent,” referring to red light therapy that’s probably not as powerful as it ought to be.
Being early adopters in biohacking, both Arjan and Asprey have tested lots of different biohacking technologies and modalities before they became mainstream, and they did have something in common: they both shared their opinion with others and whether what they tried worked or didn’t work for them. Generally speaking, biohackers do enjoy talking about the experiences they had with what they tried, which can be very helpful for those who are just getting started.
Keep in mind, biohacking is very subjective, that’s why continued research is so important to have reliable data and objective evidence behind today’s biohacks.
And finally, as the biohacking movement grows, it serves as a good gateway for the masses to begin to take control of their health and longevity. “I think it’s already peaking, and it’s going to collapse into something else,” Arjan said. Whether it’s self-quantification or longevity or something else, we have yet to see it, but it’s a good place for people to start their health journey.
Asprey, on the other hand, sees biohacking to become even more personalized with access to increasing amounts of data and artificial intelligence.