Opinion: 5 health products that we're wasting money on

From juice diets that promise the earth to Vitamin C tablets as a cure for your cold, Rebecca Goodman highlights five health tricks that are really a waste of money.

We’re all guilty of falling for product marketing but if there’s little scientific evidence something will actually help you, why spend money on it?

Here we’ve rounded up five of the most common products on the market we’re wasting our money on as they don’t currently have any scientific benefits.

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Vitamin C tablets to prevent a cold

We all know the theory that taking more Vitamin C can help keep us healthy and prevent us from catching the common cold, but is there any scientific proof behind this?

The theory dates back to 1970 when Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling wrote a book stating that doses of Vitamin C could prevent people getting a cold.

However, when it was written there were no reliable studies to base this claim on.

In 2013, 29 studies took place to find out how Vitamin C can benefit humans and 11,306 people taking part. Findings were published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

Analysis of the studies found that taking a daily supplement of Vitamin C did not reduce the risk of catching a cold, but it did suggest that regularly taking it might reduce the length of a cold.    

The NHS also states that you should get all the recommended Vitamin C from your diet, without having to take extra supplements, which cost from £3 for 60 tablets.

Vitamin C pills (Image: Shutterstock)

Homeopathy to treat illnesses

Homeopathy is a kind of natural medicine used to treat health conditions such as using ginger to prevent stomach aches and lavender to ease tension headaches.

Practitioners in homeopathy claim using these products can let the body heal itself. The price for a consultation with a homeopath can cost from £30 to £125.  

However, in 2010 a report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos.

This review also says that the principles of ‘ultra-dilution’ on which homeopathy is based are "scientifically implausible".    

In 2017, NHS England recommended that GPs stop prescribing homeopathy and it says there is “no clear or robust evidence to support the use of homeopathy on the NHS”.

US Government agency National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says there’s little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific health condition.

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Sugar substitutes for weight loss

There seems to be a never-ending supply of articles telling us about the dangers of sugar and how it contributes to the country’s obesity levels, but what are the benefits of sugar substitutes?

Whether it’s artificial sweeteners or low-calorie alternatives, there’s a huge market for food and drink products that promise to offer us a healthier alternative to sugar.

However, in a recent review carried out by non-profit research group Cochrane into the benefits of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS), it was found there was not enough evidence available to confirm these products helped people lose weight.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at 56 studies and found that most didn’t have many participants and didn’t last long enough to provide firm conclusions.

It looked at several things including weight, health, mood and behaviour of those taking part in the tests and concluded more studies were needed into the effects and safety of sweeteners.  

The findings of the research stated: “For most outcomes, there seemed to be no statistically or clinically relevant difference between NSS intake versus no intake, or between different doses of NSSs.

“No evidence was seen for health benefits from NSSs and potential harms could not be excluded.

“The certainty of the included evidence ranged from very low to moderate, and our confidence in the reported effect estimates is accordingly limited.”

The review was carried to provide evidence to the World Health Organisation, which is preparing guidelines on these alternatives.

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Sugar substitute (Image: Shutterstock)

Probiotic drinks to promote health

Having a healthy gut is something we hear a lot about and there are many products on the market promising to offer this.

From yoghurts to milkshakes, probiotic products take up a big space on the supermarket shelves, but if you regularly buy them – you may be wasting your money.

The amount you’re spending will depend on the product, but an eight pack of probiotic yoghurt designed to be drunk daily usually costs around £3.

In 2016, a review was carried out by researchers at the University of Copenhagen into a number of trials that have taken place to discover the effects of probiotics.

The findings of this research showed there was no evidence to support the idea that probiotics provided a benefit to most people.

In the majority of cases of healthy people, there was little difference to the make-up of the gut’s bacteria when they took probiotics.   

Juice diets to lose weight

Every January a new juice diet is advertised to try and persuade us into parting with our cash to lose the extra weight we might have put on over Christmas.

The industry for juice diets is lucrative with the global fruit and vegetable juice market valued at $154 billion (£117bn) in 2016.

Along with promises of weight loss, lots of these products claim to have detoxifying properties to eliminate toxins building up within us.

Unfortunately, juice diets have attracted controversy for many reasons with some experts arguing a person is more at risk of developing diabetes if they only consume fruit and vegetable juices and not the fibre.

There is also little evidence to say a juice diet will help you lose weight.

In fact, some studies, such as this one by NCBI, have suggested that by following a juice diet there is actually a higher risk of consuming more calories than normal.

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