The brain and body are intrinsically connected. Nervous pathways which is made up of chemicals, hormones and neurotransmitters, engages in a delicate dance to ensure that the body functions efficiently. The degree to which brain and body are separate was was hotly debated by philosophers for centuries. Nevertheless, it is wide acceptance regardless of whether they are considered separate units, the brain exists as a processing center to ensure the body’s optimal performance.
What, however, if such an accepted fact as the brain exists? to help body was controversial? What if advertisers rebranded the brain as unreliable, inefficient, and the enemy of the body? If the brain were marketed as separate from the body it is designed to protect, consumers would have to look to outside sources to help with everyday human functions.
This is precisely the basis of modernity health industry. By selling products to optimize bodily functions such as digestion, circulation, and immune health through expensive products, retailers have created a body hierarchy with a direct correlation between money spent on personal care products and an “optimal body.” For large corporations, this is the perfect formula to convince the public that their brains cannot effectively regulate their bodies. with Amazon sales of reishi mushroom antigenic extract at $20 per pound, and “health” in general rose to 4.5 trillion dollars A global industry, millions of people have already succumbed to the corporate narrative of buying products to maximize bodily performance in a futile effort to achieve the “optimal body.”
It is impossible to determine exactly which philosopher or company first invented the recipe for selling body optimization. Maybe it was a doctor Hulbert L. Dunn, who in 1961 coined the term “wellness” to describe external efforts toward a healthy lifestyle. In its genesis, the concept of the well-being of the body was an oral tradition cited as early as 3000 BC in the Hindu sacred texts, the Vedas. Wellness also has origins in ancient Chinese medical systems. However, the wellness practices practiced through Ayurveda in the Indian subcontinent and Taoist holistic medicine in China are a far cry from the highly commercialized wellness economy that exists in America today.
While Ayurveda and Taoist holistic medicine emphasize harmony between body and spirit, the wellness industry uses the premise that the human body is something to be optimized, cleansed, and hacked. Currently estimated at $702 billionThe “healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss” sector of the global health economy is cherry-picking aspects of traditional health while ignoring basic human nutrition science, often with dangerous consequences.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains an actively updated archive of labeled recalled products “Health Fraud.” Many of these documents reveal the influence of companies that reformulate elements of traditional health care without consulting a licensed Ayurvedic or Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.
In July 2022, the FDA issued a public notice warning consumers about undeclared drug ingredients in 17 honey-based health products. While honey has been used for centuries and is proven clinically effective in traditional Chinese medicine, the illegal ingredients in the recalled products can “lower blood pressure to dangerous levels.”
In Southeast Asia, a plant known as lattice traditionally used increase work productivity. However, in 2021 Seized by FDA over 207,000 units of dietary supplements and ingredients containing kratom from a manufacturer in Fort Myers, Florida. The recalled supplements, worth a total of about $1.3 million, put consumers at risk of “respiratory depression, vomiting, nervousness, weight loss and constipation” with narcotic effects and associated withdrawal symptoms.
Even when they comply with FDA regulations, the distribution of obscenely expensive edible health products has a profound sociocultural impact. Overall, older members of Generation Z and younger Millennials are trend away from a restrictive diet culture. However, while restricting food intake on hyper-restrictive diets is dangerous is decreasing on a grand scale, “wellness” has sneaked in to take its place.
Instead of advocating outright food restriction, social media influencers and wellness brands are now cashing in on enhancements.”gut health,” promoting supplements that are not FDA approved. Despite the obvious guarantees that the products offered support holistic health, weight loss and slimming remain ideals.
At the forefront of the recent “gut health” wellness trend. bone brothwhich, like aloe, is whose first reported medical uses date back to the Egyptian documents of 1550 B.C. — was used in traditional healing practice for centuries. In traditional Chinese medicine, bone broth is given to strengthen the kidneys and support healthy digestion. However, in today’s health economy, six packs of bone broth “elixirs” sell for approximately $180. Instead of using for medical purposes, “pasta on bone broth” and “bone broth detox” have gained popularity as a repackaged form of diet. Popular wellness brand OWL Venice offers a six-day bone broth Reset Cleanse for $380, which promises that Mason jar meal replacements with broth “work in synergy to provide a simple, powerful way to support gut and digestive health.”
Relabeling diets like bone broth fasting, aloe vera juice cleanses, and other gut-healthy efforts as “health” is dangerous for three main reasons. First, as with all other aspects of the health economy, there are many new edible health products scientifically unfounded, and as such are not FDA approved. Second, following wellness trends adds a a moral imperative restrict food intake for abstract holistic health purposes, which adds even more mental stress. Finally, with 16oz jars “Wild and Organic” seaweed gel retails for $33 in two-ounce jars Ashwagandha spices at $23, health products are out of reach for most people. Achieving a “maximally optimized” body with intact gut, digestive, circulatory and immune health is therefore reserved for the very wealthy, further entrenching unrealistic body expectations and idealizing wealth and thinness.
With little oversight, mass recalls, and thinly veiled fad diets, today’s health industry uses vague moral imperatives thoughtlessly drawn from centuries of traditional practice. While the FDA has flagged some obvious health fraud, the psychological impact of unhealthy expectations hides in plain sight. As the health care industry grows, consumers must remain vigilant against the dangers lurking in a $23 bottle.
Avery Crystal is an Opinion columnist who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.