This week, Dr. Zac Turner looks at “healthy” Christmas presents that aren’t that good for you.
Hi Dr. Zac, my mum has become obsessed with health and nutrition this year – I love her dearly and want to get something good for her as a Christmas gift. I’ve been researching some gifts that are health-centric but I can’t tell what’s a sham and what’s legit. So far I’ve found massage guns, air fryers, teeth whiteners, health trackers, pore vacuum and weighted blankets.
Hi Paris, it’s like running the gauntlet attempting to decipher which health product is legitimate. You need to be careful you aren’t buying her something that will do more harm than good.
Let’s go through each of the products listed and I’ll point you in the right direction to make your decision…
I have nothing against massage guns, they can be a helping hand when a partner or friend is too tired or maybe not there at all.
What I do have an issue with is when people start diagnosing themselves. I so often see carefully formulated commercials designed to educate consumers just enough so they think a vibrating gun and some newly acquired wiki-knowledge is going to fix their problems.
While I am a fan of learning about your body, especially through improving posture, exercising regularly and good ergonomics, I think this should be in addition to rather than replacing a qualified and educated physiotherapist or massage therapist for any actual concerns.
What I am trying to say is this: massage guns are a leisure product and if you have any type of muscle injury, these devices will not help you at all, unless you have been directed by a health professional to use one properly.
If your mother complains about a sore back, I’d recommend checking before you buy her one of these as she may do real damage instead. Massage guns override the sensation of pain within a sore muscle in the same way you might rub your forehead after smacking it on an edge – this is referred to as the Gate Control Theory of pain.
I’ve spoken about air fryers in the past and I recommend you check my column about them to get the full rundown. The air fryer works by circulating super hot air around foods with just a thin coat of oil (some recipes add no oil at all), so you’re looking at least around 70 to 80 per cent less fat than traditional deep frying would use.
They can be a healthy alternative to deep frying, unless you load them up with cr*p! Yes, air fryers do use less oil and cut calories, but if you are still frying processed frozen food, you are running the risk of not having a nutritional meal.
If you suspect your mother may throw in a few Mars bars instead of broccolini, this may not be the right idea for her.
No doubt you’ve seen a lot of Instagram influencers touting teeth whitening mouth guard contraptions that emit light lately. It’s the latest cash-grab and can be a real worry when people sidestep the advice of their dentist.
Teeth are vitally important and humans only get one set of adult ones and keeping them tough, intact and healthy is key to maintaining good overall health.
Our mouths are so often the gateway to our bodies with most things even from a young age being trialled and tasted and other than low corrosive teeth whiteners, we shouldn’t be messing around with DIY home kits in the pursuit of beauty.
I often say to my patients that the more potent a medication works the more potential there is for possible side effects. When it comes to teeth whitening, many of the stronger and faster acting kits are using chemicals that will definitely whiten your teeth but at the same time strip many of the things that make teeth so truly unique and special.
Teeth whitening can be safe and effective when health standard and manufacturer protocols are followed but please remember there’re no magic solutions long-term that can replace good dental hygiene and care.
There are certain risks related to tooth whitening such as increased tooth sensitivity and gingival irritation. New research has shown there are other risks such as tooth surface roughening and softening, and increased potential for demineralisation.
Rather than getting your mum one of the home kits, get her a voucher for a local cosmetic/beauty salon or at her dentist. Then you can have peace of mind you won’t have to buy her denture cleaners next Christmas.
Fitbit, and other health trackers are great for quantifying your health into daily measures. They can even track the number of hours you sleep each night which is important if you read my last column on sleep. This data can be shared with your mother’s doctor to help monitor her daily activity.
My problem is, however, they do rely on Bluetooth connection which is a red flag in my books because it means they emit EMF radiation – albeit a small dose – but if she is wearing it nearly all the time, it could cause problems down the line.
Pore vacuums don’t really work. Or not as effectively as you’d want. But what you really need to appreciate is that they can actually cause your skin some damage.
Pores do not close up once you remove debris and so what they offer is actually a very temporary fix.
More often than not, the vacuum is too strong which can cause telangiectasis. This is when you have superficial blood vessels that dilate because you have too much suction or pressure on the surface of the skin. This can cause permanent damage, and these blood vessels will appear thin, red and threadlike for some time.
There isn’t much out there in terms of scientific proof that backs up the claim of weighted blankets for adults. And while they may gladly flood our TV screens with personal endorsements from happy customers, these blankets’ true value may just be placebo and you are really just in need of hug.
If your mum is a rough sleeper this may be a great way to trick her into a better night’s sleep, but if she’s simply looking to snuggle up under a blanket and get a good night’s sleep, experts suggest there are cheaper ways to do that than dropping $300 on a weighted blanket … give mum a call and give her a hug and maybe get her a proper massage as well.
I hope I’ve helped you choose the right present for your mother. It’s the thought that counts, right?