Is there any benefit to certain health and fitness products or is it just very clever marketing?

Nutritional fads have been around since the dawn of time. Marketers have long recognised that people will pay a premium for a product viewed as healthy, or at least less-unhealthy (enter low calorie flavoured waters and “light” beers).

In the late 90’s there was a surge in the performance nutrition sector. Nowadays it is the norm to see men and women alike, regardless of their sporting discipline, slurping back a protein shake. Other products that have grown in popularity include diet pills, energy drinks, and recovery shakes.

Over the last few years there has been some really bad publicity about diet pills.  Many contain dangerous blends of ingredients and on occasion, there have been examples of death from their intake.

Let me stop myself in my tracks here. I wanted to write an article on faddy foods, so why am I talking about diet pills?  Well really it is because as I see it, the supplements and foods we ingest seem to follow fashion trends.

Let us look at some examples.

Chia seeds:

The blurb:  Antioxidant rich, full of protein, source of plant based Omega 3.

Doctors advice:  Many of the antioxidants found in Chia may not actually be available for human benefit, and furthering on that, the most common antioxidants we get from normal everyday food as it is.  It is also worth mentioning that although Chia does have a high Omega 3 count, the body isn’t great at using plant based Omega 3.

Wellness London Suggestion:  Assuming you can/do eat fish or consume fish oil supplements, then you best source Omega 3 this way.  Eat a wide array of colourful fruit and veg and you’ll maximise your antioxidant count.


Coconut Oil:

The blurb:  It is an MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil, they help you burn fat and help with blood glucose regulation.

Wellness London Suggestion: There are no doubts that MCT oils can be used in healthy eating.  If you are on a Ketogenic diet (high healthy fats) this is especially true.

However, the number one stressor in the UK is financial health! Is it healthy to spend £10 on a small jar of oil, at the expense of say buying better quality meat and veg?  We’d say no.  And one thing that cannot be argued: you cannot go wrong with a good quality olive oil!


Manuka Honey:

The blurb:  It turns you into a superhero.

Wellness London Suggestion: Yes it hass got some “good stuff” in it, but you’d probably benefit equally from some locally sourced honey. Infact more so if you suffer pollen allergies. Factor in that just like coconut oil, this product is very pricey.  There is a mathematical equation that needs to be addressed before deciding on fancy honey, and that is – how do the health benefits (tiny amounts of active ingredients) compare to the very high sugar content?


In the past, our faddy trends have been “super skinny” or “mega bulky”. In fact going way back it was tiny corset-enclosed waists and smoking cigarettes (Lucky Strike encouraged people to reach for a smoke instead of the sweets!).  The current diet and fitness fads include: holistic health, paleo lifestyles, natural functional movement (Yoga, Crossfit, parkour, assault courses, you name it!), and super-quick meals (anyone seen the success of @thebodycoach?! #Guilty!)

We at Wellness London are very happy with the way things have moved on.  Learning to cook healthy meals through Instagram videos, joining a Crossfit Box and becoming part of a community who loosely follow the paleo lifestyle, this is all positive, healthy, enjoyable and realistic!

In the above sentence I used the words ‘loosely follow’ because any normal human will occasionally indulge in some junk food.  In fact I am writing this on Friday, which means I’ll have some burgers with a brioche bun, streaky bacon, a glass of red and wash it all down with too much ice cream!

Now if you want to be healthy (deprivation = unhappy = unhealthy) do you:

  1. a) need to follow a lifestyle 100% of the time?
  2. b) do you really need to buy Chia seeds?

Answer to both?  NO! 

I personally adopt the 80:20 rule (based on everyone exaggerating, it’s more a 75:25 rule).  That implies that 3 out of 4 meals/snacks I have fit in with my lifestyle choices and calorie requirements for staying healthy.  I am happy with my weight. If you are trying to lose weight then any lifestyle approach to diet needs to be followed at least 80:20.  I would call that a Saturday of “relaxed” eating, a Sunday brunch then by Sunday evening you are back on track!

Rather than to continue on with talk of spelt, millet, spirulina, linseed and whatever else springs to mind, I wanted to end with some simple points:

  • Don’t eat something you don’t like!
  • Don’t compromise more important food items at the expense of honeys and oils.
  • To reverse the above, don’t cook your free range chicken breast in nasty cheap trans-fats-oil (sunflower etc.)!
  • Get your vitamins and minerals from fresh fruit and veg as much as possible!
  • Supplement with Omega 3 fish oils if you can.
  • Don’t be too strict!
  • Try out new things but don’t get obsessive.


Author Philip Jones

Reference Duane Mellor, article from The Guardian 15.2.15