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The power of pseudoscience - the threat of reputational damage to sport and therapy science as a discipline

The rampant rise of pseudoscience with their "quick fix" solutions in healthcare is undermining meaningful long-term health promotion strategies and hampering clinical practice.

The global health and wellness industry has an estimated value of US$4 trillion. Profits derive from health club memberships, exercise classes, diets, supplements, alternative ‘therapies’, and thousands of other products and services that are purported to improve health, recovery, and/or sports performance. The industry has expanded at an alarming rate, far outstripping the capacity of federal bodies to regulate the market and protect consumer interests. As a result, many products are sold on baseless or exaggerated claims, feigned scientific legitimacy, and questionable evidence of safety and efficacy. This article is a consciousness raiser. Herein, the implications of the mismatch between extraordinary health and performance claims and the unextraordinary scientific evidence are discussed. Specifically, we explore how pseudoscience and so-called ‘quick fix’ interventions undermine initiatives aimed at evoking long-term behavior change, impede the ongoing pursuit of sports performance, and lead to serious downstream consequences for clinical practice. Moreover, if left unchecked and unchallenged, pseudoscience in health and wellness may have profound implications for the reputation of exercise science as a discipline. This is a call to action to unify exercise scientists around the world to more proactively challenge baseless claims and pseudoscience in the commercial health and wellness industry. Furthermore, we must shoulder the burden of ensuring that the next generation of exercise scientists are sufficiently skilled to distinguish science from pseudoscience, and information from mis- and disinformation. Better population health, sports performance, and the very reputation of the discipline may depend on it.

Tiller NB, Sullivan JP, Ekkekakis P (2023) Baseless Claims and Pseudoscience in Health and Wellness: A Call to Action for the Sports, Exercise, and Nutrition-Science.  Community. Sports Med 53, 1–5 (2023).