From at-home stool tests to foot baths claiming to draw impurities from the body, the wellness industry is big business, worth $1.5 trillion and counting. As it has grown, so too have concerns that people are taking unproven therapies to treat serious medical conditions. Just this month, the US Food and Drug Administration recalled Natural Solutions Foundation’s “Nano Silver 10ppm dietary supplement” over its label’s “unsubstantiated health claims to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19”.
Colleen Derkatch, whose research at Toronto Metropolitan University in Canada focuses on the rhetoric of science, medicine and health, has noticed a rise in unsubstantiated claims and celebrity hype in the unregulated wellness industry, whose products promise to increase energy, reduce stress, slow the ageing process and more. Rather than expose the claims, however, she wanted to find out why people are drawn to wellness therapies in the first place.
In her latest book, Why Wellness Sells, Derkatch held in-depth interviews with 40 people who use supplements and other wellness therapies in their day-to-day lives. She also analysed the arguments and language used by members of online communities centred around “natural” healing. She found that the allure of the wellness industry has far less to do with individual gullibility and far more to do with societal failings.
Wendy Glauser: Let’s start with the biggest question of the book – why …