Ah, 2023! This past year was a rollercoaster of health fads. We gulped down matcha like there was no tomorrow and relentlessly pursued longevity. Remember the buzz around CBD products? And how about people discussing Psilocybin's health benefits?
The massive rise in supplement use, with NAC and magnesium leading, lacks substantial evidence for benefits. Overuse poses health risks like nausea and heart problems.*
The high-protein diet is the most popular in the United States, but most Americans already consume enough protein, potentially leading to nutritional imbalances.
The trend for "glazed donut" and "glass" skin has led to over-moisturizing, causing skin dependency, irritations, and exacerbating conditions like dermatitis.
Diabetes drugs like Ozempic are increasingly being used for weight loss instead of their intended diabetes treatments, posing shortages and health risks, such as hypoglycemia.
TikTok's pop psychology trend, with 119 billion views on #MentalHealth, is contributing to widespread self-diagnosis and neglect of professional mental healthcare.
Here's the thing with health trends: they're not always as safe as they seem. And we're not just talking about extremes like bone smashing or drinking borax.
What were the top viral but risky health trends of this year? You've definitely heard of them but might not have considered their drawbacks. At first glance, they all seem safe.
So, grab your green juice (or should we say sea moss smoothie?) and get ready. We're about to embark on a no-holds-barred exploration of the health trends that made us go "hmm" in 2023 and are set to dominate in 2024.
1. The everything supplement
Are you finding it hard to focus, struggling to get a good night's sleep, or feeling like your immune system is on the brink? In 2024, the multibillion-dollar supplement industry will be right there, ready to offer its solutions.
Over the past five years, Google data indicates a continuous increase in interest in supplements, with a popularity score rising by 80%. The top supplements driving this interest include NAC, magnesium, NMN, and fiber supplements.
The North American dietary supplements market is expected to reach about $72 billion by 2026. In contrast, the fitness equipment market in the same region is projected to be only around $14.46 billion in 2026.
In the United States, 74% of adults take dietary supplements, with 55% being regular users. Several factors drive this growth, like extensive marketing and social media influence, the idea of preventing diseases without medication, and the fact that supplements might be considered without side effects.
The hashtag #supplements has garnered over 5.3 billion views on TikTok, proving how mainstream supplements are.
The risks and limited evidence
Do we need to take so many supplements? While it's true that supplements can be beneficial, especially for people with specific micronutrient deficiencies, the overall health advantages they offer vary. Not all supplements provide significant health benefits, and in some instances, they could even be harmful.
Too much vitamin C or zinc could cause nausea and stomach cramps, while excessive selenium intake might result in hair loss and gastrointestinal upset.
Overdosing on magnesium may cause muscle weakness and decreased blood pressure, potentially resulting in cardiac arrest. More than 750 mg/d of phosphorus can cause gastrointestinal issues for some people. High doses of iron might result in constipation and impact zinc absorption when taken at the same time.
Inappropriate use of beta-carotene supplements by smokers increases the risk of lung cancer. Taking too much vitamin D can lead to organ calcification, hypertension, and renal issues.
Excessive calcium intake might cause gastrointestinal problems and hardening of blood vessels. Overuse of folic acid can result in insomnia, irritability, gastrointestinal distress, and a potential increased cancer risk.
A noteworthy micro trend is the increased use of melatonin supplements, especially among children, which has risen by 530% over the past decade.
Despite its popularity for managing sleep disorders, melatonin has been linked to headaches, dizziness, and nausea.
2. The protein paradox
In 2023, the high-protein diet was the most popular in the U.S., with 18 percent of individuals following it.
The macronutrient's popularity soared, with #highprotein hitting 2 billion U.S. views on TikTok over the last 12 months. This fascination with protein is evident in everyday life, from protein bars available at every corner store to the surge in Google searches for cottage cheese, a protein-rich food.
In 2024, plant-based proteins are on a trajectory to become even more mainstream. The market is projected to increase by 43% from its 2022 value by 2027.
Yet, protein obsession overlooks a crucial fact, most Americans are already consuming enough, if not too much, protein.
Overconsumption and glorification
Contrary to the popular belief that we need more protein, most people in the U.S., especially males aged 19–59, meet or even exceed their protein requirements.
On average, adult men and women consume 98 grams and 68 grams of protein daily, accounting for about 15% of their calorie intake. However, adults should, on average, consume approximately 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women. Physically active people may need more protein.
Protein-rich products like protein bars are often seen as healthy choices, but nutritionists warn that many are little more than glorified candy.
Protein-rich foods: perceptions vs. reality
|Ideal post-workout snack, full of nutrients
|May be high in sugar and calories, contains artificial additives
|Low in fat and high in protein, perfect for dieting
|Nutritional content varies; some brands may be high in sodium
|Healthy, all-natural, and protein-packed
|Can be high in sugar, especially flavored varieties
The appeal of foods like cottage cheese, packed with as much protein as three eggs in just a half-cup, reflects the ongoing trend.
3. Diabetes drugs as the new weight loss
The trend of using diabetes drugs for weight loss in the beauty industry is one of the most massive and risky health trends. It's no surprise that even one-third of parents are considering weight loss drugs for their children.
The anti-diabetes drugs market is expected to grow by 30% from 2023 by 2028.
The U.S. was predicted to be the largest contributor to this growth, estimated at $33.54 billion in 2023 alone.
This year, Novo Nordisk's Wegovy (Semaglutide) reported more than 490% growth compared to 2022. The demand for these drugs for weight loss purposes is diverting them from their intended use in diabetes treatment.
Public perception and the role of social media
Despite only 33% of Americans considering weight loss drugs safe, the interest in these medications is increasing.
The surge in the off-label use of diabetes drugs for weight loss has led to medication shortages for those who genuinely need these drugs for diabetes management. Ozempic's supplies are not anticipated to normalize until at least June 2024.
The sheer volume of social media interest, with the hashtag #ozempic on TikTok receiving around 70 million views, proves a high demand driven by people without diabetes.
Even Google couldn't keep up with the surge in demand for 'Ozempic' in 2023, as it peaked at the value of 100 in Google searches.
Health risks exposed
People might put the adverse drug effects on the second plan in pursuit of weight loss. Doctors who prescribe such medications highlight the need for a cautious approach.
GLP-1 receptor agonist drugs like semaglutide (active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy) and liraglutide (active ingredient in Victoza and Saxenda) come with potential side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
A particularly serious risk associated with this class of drugs is low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) when used alongside other blood sugar-lowering medications like sulfonylureas or insulin.
People without diabetes who use these drugs for weight loss still face the risks of pancreatitis and stomach problems, which are side effects common to both users with and without diabetes.
For people with diabetes, the benefits of these medications in controlling blood sugar levels are often considered outweighing these risks.
Physicians typically inform patients with diabetes about the potential side effects, emphasizing that the overall improvement in their health can justify the use of these drugs. For people without diabetes, the risk of such severe side effects may not be justified solely for weight loss.
People with a history of specific thyroid cancers or endocrine disorders should be cautious with GLP-1 drugs, as studies in rats have linked them to thyroid tumors. The long-term risk for humans is still unclear.
4. Pop psychology
In 2023, TikTok has become a focal point for mental health awareness, with hashtags like #MentalHealth garnering more than 119 billion views.
The science-pop trend involves content discussing psychological illnesses and conditions, sharing insights on coping with specific traumas, and exploring ways to enhance the understanding of mental health.
This surge in interest, particularly among 15-25-year-olds, reflects a broader societal shift towards greater mental health awareness.
However, this trend comes with its own risks, especially when it leads to self-diagnosing.
Self-diagnosing is the process where an individual concludes they have a mental health condition without the confirmation or assessment of a trained healthcare professional.
Users are doing this by comparing their own experiences with what others share online, looking up symptoms, or taking online quizzes.
This kind of informal diagnosing can lead to labeling people around us – friends, family, partners, or co-workers – based on their actions. For example, it's common to hear someone label their ex as a narcissist or to label various experiences as trauma.
@danajillflaherty This is the tale of a trauma bond. Dont waste years in this cycle. #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #trauma #DV #dvawareness #dvawarenessmonth #traumabond #abuse #tiktok ♬ 3:15 (Slowed Down + Reverb) - Russ
According to Healthnews research, teenagers most commonly self-diagnose ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and dissociative identity disorder.
Risks of self-diagnosis
Self-diagnosing can result in overstating the severity of a problem or missing out on crucial treatment when a self-diagnosis is incorrect.
Effective diagnosis requires understanding a range of criteria, not just single symptoms, which is often beyond the scope of social media content.
According to one study, after spending 5–6 hours on the platform, almost half of the videos viewed by automated accounts were related to mental health and potentially harmful.
The situation is even more alarming for younger users. The research shows that most videos on the 'For You' page for 13-year-olds are about mental health problems, including videos that make suicide seem appealing.
The rise of mental health awareness on social media, particularly on platforms like TikTok, reflects a growing societal openness to discussing psychological well-being.
However, users should understand the limitations of these platforms in providing medical advice. You need to approach mental health issues with the seriousness and professional attention they require.
5. The shiny side of skincare
In 2020, for the first time, skincare products began outselling makeup, a trend that has continued to ascend. In 2023, the movement has grown into a $625.7 billion global phenomenon.
The hundreds of new skincare brands evidence the growth. Some notable launches include John Legend's LovedO1, Vanessa Hudgens' relaunch of KNOW Beauty, and Kim Kardashian's trademark filings for her daughter North, hinting at a potential skincare line.
This expansion aligns with a 200% increase in Google searches for 'self-care' over the past five years.
A major driver of this growth is the popularity of skincare-related content on platforms like TikTok, where hashtags like #grwm (get ready with me) boast more than 146 billion views.
In 2023, the "glazed donut skin" look continued to boom the most, thanks to Hailey Bieber's enduring popularity and her beauty brand, Rhode. Her trend, which promotes ultra-hydrated skin as soft and glowy as a Krispy Kreme donut, became a sensation in 2023.
@glasskinco Pov: Korean skincare cleared your skin 😍 #myskincareroutine #glasskinkorea #kbeauty #kbeautymusthaves #kbeautyskincare #kbeautyaddict #skincare101 #foryoupage ♬ original sound - S O F I I A🎧
Influencers all over the internet have been focused on achieving the "clean girl look" with "glass skin" using 10-step skincare routines, remaining at the forefront since early 2020. Following this trend, users often apply an excessive layer of multiple hydrating products.
skincare to become a glazed donut♬ woo - ❤️🔥
The perils of over-moisturizing
Despite the allure of achieving the perfect "glass skin" or "glazed donut" look, over-moisturizing has risks.
Signs that you might be using too much moisturizer include blackheads, clogged pores, excess oil, breakouts, and an uneven skin texture.
The effects of moisturizers vary and depend on the active ingredients, overall formulation, and the amount used. Paradoxically, excessive use of certain active ingredients can further dehydrate your skin by promoting increased water loss.
This may also weaken the skin’s protective barrier, leaving it more vulnerable to irritants and allergens, and potentially increase the risk of developing skin conditions such as dermatitis.
Keeping your skin healthy requires a balance. Hydrating is good, but it's also crucial to know how much is too much for your skin's health.
The bottom line
Health trends often carry risks, but they can still have a place in our lives when approached with moderation and an awareness of potential consequences.
The fast-paced nature of these trends often clashes with the fundamentals of health, which is inherently about long-term, sustainable solutions tailored to our individual needs.
Are we following the trend, or is the trend following us? On the health journey, being your own trendsetter, making well-informed choices, and having a doctor by your side is always the best path to follow.
* Disclaimer: In discussions regarding N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) within the context of dietary supplements, it is important to clearly state that, as of current regulations, NAC is not classified as a dietary supplement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While NAC may be mentioned alongside other supplements for the purpose of comparison or information sharing, this should not be interpreted as an indication of its status as an FDA-recognized dietary supplement.
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- Amnesty International. Global: TikTok’s ‘For You’ feed risks pushing children and young people towards harmful mental health content.
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- BioSpace. Novo Logs Over 700% Wegovy Sales Growth in Q3, Raises 2023 Outlook.
- BBC. Ozempic shortage hits diabetes patient after weight loss use.
- Endocrinology. GLP-1 Receptor Agonists and the Thyroid: C-Cell Effects in Mice Are Mediated via the GLP-1 Receptor and not Associated with RET Activation.
- JAMA Network. Risk of Gastrointestinal Adverse Events Associated With Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists for Weight Loss.