Health or hype? Action News Jax Investigates whether popular products really improve your health

ACTION NEWS JAX INVESTIGATES: Wellness products debunked

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In the age of a pandemic, people may be looking for ways to improve their health and are considering products marketed to improve their wellness.

FIDGET SPINNERS

“Many people have successfully curbed unwanted habits using this funny and cool fidget toy.” That’s how fidget spinners are marketed on sites like Amazon.

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Even members of Congress were seen using fidget spinners during lengthy impeachment proceedings.

But Dr. Heather Hausenblas, a professor at Jacksonville University’s School of Applied Health Sciences, said don’t be fooled by a company’s claims.

“It’s an inexpensive toy, but it’s just a toy,” Hausenblas said.

Hausenblas said in 2017 when the fidget spinner craze began, there was no science supporting claims that it helps with stress, anxiety or ADHD.

“Fast forward to now when there’s less than a handful of studies. What these studies show is if you’re using a fidget spinner it’s going to reduce your attention and it’s going to reduce your focus,” Hausenblas said.

WEIGHTED BLANKETS

Another popular product: weighted blankets.

Melody Choate purchased one.

“At first thought, I thought it was a silly concept. Like who needs a weighted blanket? Why is that important to someone,” Choate said.

Like many people, the Riverside hairstylist has trouble sleeping, so Choate gave weighted blankets a try and said she’s now a believer.

“So I get a more restful sleep every night when I used the blanket,” Choate said.

The blankets aren’t cheap either.

“These are expensive -- they typically run between $100-$200,” Hausenblas said.

Some companies market weighted blankets as being relaxing, others put it this way: “use science to help you relax”.

“At the end of the day the studies are scattered, they’re really not very high-quality, so I say caution if you’re going to make this type of investment,” Hausenblas said.

While Hausenblas said there’s nothing negative about buying one these blankets, know that claims about it improving your sleep are not backed up by good research.

“The best way would be what we call a randomized controlled trial where people are randomized to use the blanket. Some do not and then we take a look at what we call different outcomes to see does it actually improve people’s sleep,” Hausenblas said.

“Even though there’s no medical proof, it does help me sleep and I can only speak to my experience,” Choate said.

OIL DIFFUSERS

How about essential oil diffusers?

These products are often marketed as air purifiers, or anxiety reducers.

Hausenblas said there are some things you need to look for.

“If essential oils says it’s a ‘therapeutic grade,' that’s really a marketing term -- there’s no such thing as a therapeutic grade,” Hausenblas said.

Also, make sure the oil you’re using is 100 percent pure.

“Where was it sourced, for example, and there should be nothing else added to it so no other chemicals or fillers in it,” Hausenblas said.

When it comes to health and wellness, Hausenblas said there’s no magic recipe.

“You should be exercising, you should be standing more during the day, you should be following a healthy diet,” she said.