Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop site (“Elevated Essentials for Life”) has been promoting pseudoscience and quack remedies for years, but somehow she manages to shake off criticism, like Trump or Deepak Chopra. Most notorious was her $66 “jade vagina egg“, which, inserted into that orifice, was claimed to do these things:
- harnesses the power of energy work, crystal healing, and a Kegel-like physical practice
- cleanses, clears, and detoxifies the vagina
- removes negativity
- increases chi, orgasms, vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy.
Did I mention that you could “recharge” the egg by putting it in the light of a full moon?
Despite the weaselly disclaimer, these benefits were touted not by a doctor, but by a quack named Shiva Rose. A real doctor, a gynecologist named Jen Gunter, took apart these claims, pointing out not only that the egg had no vaginal benefits, but could, by carrying bacteria in its pores, cause infection. And yet the egg is still on sale.
Over the years, goop has offered a number of bogus products and health advice, including taking megavitamins (useless), steaming your vagina (useless and dangerous), detox regimens (useless), crystal healing (ditt0), and skin stickers purported to recharge and heal your body by being programmed with different “frequencies” (useless and expensive).
The stickers, I think, were the last straw. They were touted as incorporating material used by NASA, but NASA denied it, and one ex-NASA official said they were “bullshit.” Although Paltrow has made millions from this quackery, the pushback from the vagina eggs and quack stickers clearly stung her, and her reputation was at stake. She had to do something.
What she did last week was to have her team write a defense of her practices, and enlist two of her advising doctors to tout their credentials and justify their woo, It’s all on view on the goop site: “Uncensored: A Word from our Doctors.” But the goop commentary does not go well, not only questioning the motivations of her critics but also arguing that criticism of her woo is dangerous (my emphasis):
As goop has grown, so has the attention we receive. We consistently find ourselves to be of interest to many—and for that, we are grateful—but we also find that there are third parties who critique goop to leverage that interest and bring attention to themselves. Encouraging discussion of new ideas is certainly one of our goals, but indiscriminate attacks that question the motivation and integrity of the doctors who contribute to the site is not. This is the first in a series of posts revisiting these topics and offering our contributing M.D.’s a chance to articulate theirs, in a respectful and substantive manner.
We always welcome conversation. That’s at the core of what we’re trying to do. What we don’t welcome is the idea that questions are not okay. Being dismissive—of discourse, of questions from patients, of practices that women might find empowering or healing, of daring to poke at a long-held belief—seems like the most dangerous practice of all. Where would we be if we all still believed in female hysteria instead of orgasm equality? That smoking didn’t cause lung cancer? If every nutritionist today saw the original food pyramid as gospel?
. . . Asking questions is the job of all of us; it is also the job of the doctors and scientists who collectively move our health forward. There is much that we do not know. It is unfortunate that there are some who seem to believe that they already know it all, who pre-judge information before they’ve even taken the time to read or understand it, who believe that there is actually nothing left to learn, who believe that they, singularly, own the truth. That is troubling, and that is dangerous.
I’d enact the onerous emotional labor of going after this stuff , but fortunately, ArsTechnica has done it all, saving me the trouble. Read Beth Mole’s piece, “Defense of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Good offers case study on how to sell snake oil.“, which goes after goop‘s defense, though not the doctors’. It details eight rhetorical tactics the site uses to defend its woo, as well as detailing a number of goop products that make bogus medical claims. Somehow I’d missed this product, which offers semiprecious pebbles that would cost you about $10 at a rock store:
For a critique of the two goop doctors themselves, there’s no better place to go than surgeon Orac’s new post at ScienceBlogs, “Gwyneth Paltrow’s quack empire goop strikes back against Dr. Jen Gunther.” Here’s a sample from Orac:
Of course, Dr. Gundry will have none of it. He has a peculiar level of tunnel vision. He paints himself as a science-based doctor at the very highest level of his profession. Arguably, he was, at least until 15 years ago, when, as he brags, he resigned a “Professor and Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at a major medical school to devote myself to reversing disease with food and nutraceutical supplementation, instead of bypasses, stents, or medications, just like Hippocrates asked you and me to do when we took our oath: ‘Let food be thy medicine.’ And he works so, so hard at it. So hard. So very hard that he has to brag:
“And finally, he taught that a physician’s job was to search out and remove the obstacles that are keeping the patient from healing themselves. For the last fifteen years, I’ve been doing just that seven days a week (yes, you read that right, Saturday and Sunday as well, just ask my overworked staff).”
Poor baby. Such dedication. And, he assures us, even though he has concierge patients, he also takes Medicare and Medicaid! He’s also a condescending dude as well [example follows]. . .
I know that people follow celebrities’ fashion and tastes, hoping that some of the stardom rubs off on them, but it’s beyond me why someone would take medical advice from Gwyneth Paltrow over that of their doctor. For crying out loud, you could at least call your gynecologist before you stick a jade egg in your vagina!
And I’m equally puzzled why the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doesn’t crack down on specious health claims, and make sure that any disclaimers are BIG and BOLD—or better yet deep-six those claims altogether. After all, the FTC recently required homeopathic “remedies” to have scientific evidence backing their health claims, and if not they simply couldn’t make such claims. Why isn’t goop subject to the same regulations?