celebrities

Opinion: Let's Stop Taking Celebrity Advice on Health

By Andrew Campbell - Flickr

By Andrew Campbell - Flickr

 

TAKING CELEBRITY ADVICE ON HEALTH IS GETTING OUT OF HAND

Tom Brady is a hotshot celebrity NFL player, if you haven't heard of him before.  If you have heard of him, and watch the NFL to any extent, you either love him with a passion, or hate him with one.  So, as plenty of celebrities tend to do, Tom Brady recently came out with a book back in September.  (We're all talking about it now because he was in the Super Bowl this past season.)   The kicker?  It's not about his NFL career, or his family, or anything along those lines.  No -- it's about his diet.

 

That might be okay if it didn't try to go off about the 'science' behind what he eats, and how it lowers his PH balance, and help speed recovery to the body.

 

Vox.com covered this story, having spoke to scientists about Brady's health claims.  They asked Stuart Phillips, a professor in the department of kinesiology at McMaster University, about Brady's claim that his diet effects the PH balance (lowering it, specifically) in his body.  He told Vox:"It’s next to impossible — in fact, I can’t think of an instance — where people have been able to change their blood pH with diet.  So there’s zero foundation for the notion that alkaline and acid foods [are] able to do anything to your body.”

 

His anti-inflammatory diet (which, to be noted, is not bad in itself) doesn't speed his recovery as he claims, either.  At least, there's not scientific backing for that claim.  "I don’t know a morsel of new scientific knowledge [supporting] what Tom Brady would like for you, that his dietary practice is linked to his career longevity or his success as an athlete.” Phillips had continued with Vox.  They had asked others, too, who said that the only post-excerise diet that had been scientifically shown to speed body recovery is "is getting enough carbohydrates to replenish glycogen that’s been depleted after a workout, or protein to help with muscle building."

 

Tom Brady is Far From Being the Only Celebrity to Spread Pseudoscience On Health, And He's Not the Worst Either

 

As Vox explained, Tom Brady's diet is actually good for you (though it is a little on the extreme side), and if you were to follow his diet, you most likely wouldn't hurt yourself.  Though, it should be noted that any major diet change should be expressed to a doctor, because every diet effects everyone differently. The harm of following celebrity advice though, for reasons that are not based in science is a real issue however.

 

Take Gwyneth Paltrow, who we have discussed before. She is arguably the worst offender in spreading health pseudoscience in recent history.  The celebrity, probably known to most as playing Pepper Potts in recent years, has her own website in which is is constantly writing about the health benefits of stickers and putting external items into specific holes in your body (don't do this unless it has been recommended by your doctor).  When explaining her supposed science on these topics, she doesn't ever mention her supposed experts, and she has been known to block her critics on social media, which doesn't add any credibility to her.

 

Then take supposed celebrity doctors as Doctor Oz, who has been in court many times for advertising false claims, and you have a major problem on your hands.

 

This Common Problem Really Shouldn't Be One

 

You'd think it would be common sense not to listen to everything anyone spouts off.  You would also think it common sense to not blindly follow someone just because they are rich and you see them on your television all the time...  however.  This is where we run into this problem.  People blindly following their idols, the men and women they look up to because they seemed to have "made it".  So they must know what's going on!  They must have the best diet, fit for everyone.

 

The bottom line is that they don't.

 

People have a very hard time thinking for themselves in cases like this.  There is actually a diagnosable mental illness known as celebrity worship syndrome "Anxiety, depression, high stress levels, poor body image, isolation, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors: All of these have been linked to celebrity worship syndrome because the patient's energy is focused entirely on someone who may not even know who they are," Says Medical Daily.

 

This gives way for these celebrities, whether they mean to or not (and many of them do mean to in order to sell products) to hurt their fans.  Health claims that are not based in science are everywhere in our society, constantly.  It doesn't help in the least that some of these claims are being peddled by people who know that they have a very large following that will do anything they say, or buy anything that they promote.  People as a whole really need to stop looking to celebrity advice on maybe anything, but especially as far as health goes.

 

If you need health or diet advice, go visit your doctor. They have been medically trained in fields that these celebrity figures have not been.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Gwyneth Paltrow Defends Goop, Her Pseudoscience, and Blocks Critics

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Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, long ago now, joined the group of celebrities attempting to sell the masses pseudoscience and, frankly, snake-oil. Among her are people like Dr.Oz, and celebrities and influencers who try to sell their followers detoxing tea (which are really just laxatives and don’t help you lose weight in the manner they claim).

 

Paltrow has gone so far as to creating her own online space and shop called: “Goop”.  They sell more than just their branded snake-oil.  You can also buy shoes from her that are nearly $700.  But as unnecessarily expensive as those flats are, they’re generally harmless if you’re the kind of person who can afford those shoes.  The real problem are the products that are meant to be good for your mind and body, that are anything but.

 

The latest controversy (of many) was a few months ago now — back in June, Goop promoted a company called “Body Vibes”. In case you missed it, they sell stickers that are meant to promote healing (really!).  They also claimed that these stickers were made with the same “carbon material NASA uses to line space suits”.

 

NASA had a few words to say about this. Specifically, they told Gizmodo that they “do not have any conductive carbon material lining the spacesuits.”  (The article is not intended for younger readers — strong language throughout.)  Furthermore, after the controversy, Body Vibes themselves sent out a statement apologizing for the “communication error”, claiming that they had been lied to by a distributor, and promptly took the claim off their website.

 

However, they still claim to (maybe) offer relief from pain, (perhaps) reduce inflammation, and (perchance) release you from anxiety.  Despite their product labels claiming this, they have a disclaimer at the bottom of their website that says that Body Vibes are “not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any ailment or disease …”.  But they may be able to anyway, so they say.

 

Goop has not taken down their endorsement of this product.

 

So Why Are We Talking About This Now?

 

Gwyneth Paltrow recently talked to #GirlBoss Radio and defended her lifestyle blog. "We're very clear on what we're doing. We stand behind everything we do. But unfortunately, people who are critical of us sometimes get attention for being critical of us. It gives people a platform,”  She told them.  “I wish that people would actually read the article or do their homework before they are vitriolic about it. A lot times they're not even addressing what's on the website. [Especially because] we encourage discussion and we love the back and forth. And we love different points of view.”

 

A sentiment that might hold meaning if Goop themselves hadn’t claimed things that made it seem like they hadn’t “done their homework” on the subject.

 

Rae Paoletta, space writer and the author of the aforementioned article for Gizmodo, took to twitter to question this.  “Did Goop ‘do its homework’ when it extolled the benefits of shoving jade eggs up your vagina?”  She asked, with a CNN article linked that claimed that experts were against the idea of using jade eggs to strengthen the muscles in your vagina. “Goop preys on people by tapping into their insecurities, and decades of advertising shows this is profitable,”  Paoletta continued.  “It's an old trick wrapped in something new. Marketing pseudoscience as ‘wellness’ doesn't make your product more endearing. It's still garbage, just expensive.”

 

Paoletta also brought out that Paltrow’s Goop was being investigated for 51 deceptive claims made on their website.

 

As the icing on top of the cake, Goop’s official twitter account blocked Rae Paoletta’s account, rather than standing up for themselves.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Being unable and unwilling to express and defend themselves to their critics, and childishly block said critic, shows that Goop really doesn’t have an explanation (or at least a good one) for their over four dozen claims for health.  Paltrow’s vague comment about readers and critics ‘doing their homework’ furthers this.  Instead of giving backed reasons for her claims, or speaking to and referencing an expert on the subject, she places the blame on critics.

 

When people blindly buy the products she endorses, that's when the consumer isn’t doing their research.  And though the general public needs to be more critical of the health tricks they buy into, it’s easy to believe in people we look up to — and many people look up to celebrities who claim to put the health of their fans first.

 

There’s even been studies done about this, such as this one by epidemiologist Steven J. Hoffman and science journalist Julia Belluz. They talk about how fans following celebrity’s advice on health is a form of "herd behavior”, something similar to a mob mentality. So while some blame may fall onto people for not thinking more critically before jumping into a new health trend, more of the blame falls onto these celebrities who know what they’re doing.

 

Paltrow is an Oscar Winning actress, who has continued to be successful in her acting career since her win for Shakespeare in Love.  She supposedly had a net worth of $60 million.  There is absolutely no reason she needs to be endorsing and selling these products to unsuspecting fans and other consumers.  She knows what she’s doing — she knows she’s promoting the herd behavior because it’s an effective marketing tool and always has been.  It’s greedy, and promotes pseudoscience, giving science itself a bad name and harming consumers.

 

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.