Why Gwyneth may be harm­ful to your health

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LIVING LIKE a celebrity may once have meant Cristal Cham­pagne for break­fast, a line of coke for lunch, and caviar for din­ner. But th­ese days it’s more likely to in­volve a 15-day diet of hy­drated smooth­ies, a colonic flush and or­ganic air.

Now big stars like Gwyneth Pal­trow, Bey­once and Salma Hayek don’t have friends, they have “cleanse bud­dies”, sun­bathe their pri­vate parts and swim in don­key milk.

We shouldn’t see celebri­ties as ex­perts of any­thing – ex­cept per­haps tak­ing self­ies, avoid­ing nip slips on the red car­pet and tip­ping off the pa­parazzi for im­promptu beach snaps. Yet th­ese days we hang off their ev­ery ut­ter­ance on sub­jects such as the benefits of a “mas­ter cleanse” and the need to en­sure juices are not just raw and un­pas­teur­ized, but free from HPP (High Pres­sure Pas­cal­iza­tion).

Never be­fore has celebrity star power had so much more in­flu­ence than main­stream med­i­cal science. In other words, never be­fore have celebri­ties known so lit­tle and said so much.

So it’s time to ask: do we re­ally need squeaky clean in­ter­nal or­gans? Does a 15-day juice diet do any­thing other than make us rav­en­ous and turn our wee green? And do women re­ally need to use Mug­wort Herbal San­i­tary Pads?

A new book es­tab­lishes what many peo­ple have thought all along: that much of the new age mumbo jumbo is ab­so­lute rub­bish. Or, as Pro­fes­sor Ti­mothy Caulfield puts it, “com­plete bunk”. His book is called Is Gwyneth Pal­trow Wrong About Ev­ery­thing?

Prof Caulfield, from the Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta in Canada, sub­jected popular celebrity-led health crazes to sci­en­tific scru­tiny and found they just didn’t stack up. In other words, the an­swer to the book’s ti­tle is “yes”. The ques­tion mark was just to keep his lawyer happy, he says. For a start he found bod­ies aren’t meant to be clean and liv­ers don’t need a detox.

The idea of detox is “just bo­gus,” Prof Caulfield says. “There’s no sort of sci­en­tific am­bi­gu­ity about it.”

He – and many other sci­en­tists – in­sists we don’t need to flush out tox­ins, be­cause our body does that nat­u­rally. He also main­tains vagi­nas don’t need steam clean­ing, and there’s no ev­i­dence that do­ing so will im­prove fer­til­ity. “You shouldn’t monkey with the bac­te­rial flora down there,” as Prof Caulfield puts it.

He also found there is no need for colons to get a “fe­cal flush”, find­ing there is ab­so­lutely no sci­en­tific ba­sis for it. Juic­ing is the same, he found. It sounds good, but there is no med­i­cal rea­son it’s any bet­ter than eat­ing an ap­ple. In fact, Prof Caulfield found most celebrity health claims were de­serv­ing of noth­ing but de­ri­sion. And yet they are fol­lowed by mil­lions and given a strangely el­e­vated cult sta­tus be­cause they’re ped­dled by a re­al­ity TV star who’s seen bet­ter days or an ac­tor who won an Os­car. It’s mar­ket­ing repack­aged as medicine. Prof Caulfield points out that not only are some of th­ese things point­less and un­nec­es­sary, they are ac­tu­ally harm­ful. He’s right that celebrity health claims are sim­ply not held up to a high enough stan­dard – or any stan­dards at all.

Celebrity chef Pete Evans found this out the hard way when he re­leased a pa­leo book for ba­bies that had to be with­drawn be­cause of doc­tors’ safety con­cerns. Even Pal­trow has talked about how a mas­ter cleanse once left her hal­lu­ci­nat­ing af­ter 10 days. As Prof Caulfield says, many peo­ple don’t re­alise that health claims like “all nat­u­ral”, “clin­i­cally proven” and “based on science” mean ab­so­lutely noth­ing.

Whether it’s Pal­trow and her 2.13 mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers, or Pete Evans and his one mil­lion Face­book page likes, sci­en­tists just can’t com­pete with star power. In­deed, de­spite be­ing un­der attack in the main­stream press, Evans’s Face­book page has at­tracted 10,000 new page likes in the past week.

As the rest of us get fat­ter and less healthy, the more drawn we are to the quick fix and the lat­est trend to get us back on track. We can’t be Gwyneth, but we can have a squeaky clean colon like Gwyneth, not to men­tion a freshly steamed vagina.

In the end there is only one cleanse that Prof Caulfield ad­vo­cates. Step one: “Cleanse your sys­tem of all the pseu­do­science bab­ble that flows from many celebri­ties, celebrity physi­cians and the diet in­dus­try”.

Sounds good to me. Blog with Susie at susieobrie­n.com.au and fol­low her on Twit­ter @susieob

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