Health

The Most Dubious Things Goop's New Fact-Checker Should Look Into

As of September, Goop will have a fact-checker. Here's some stuff from the Goop site that they should probably get on ASAP.

by Nicole Clark
Jul 26 2018, 7:02pm

Left photo by Randy Holmes via Getty Images, Right photo via Flickr user Frantic1892

Since its founding in 2008, Gwyneth Paltrow's wellness company, Goop, has grown into a something of an empire, encompassing a lifestyle and wellness brand, a digital magazine, an annual "wellness summit," and a suite of products. It is a veritable way of life.

Despite its rapid growth and evolution, its core qualities have stayed fairly consistent. It's known for being trafficked by the financially privileged, suggesting, for example, a $350 Tiffany's rose gold straw to combat personal contributions to global plastic waste, or a $15,000 24-karat gold dildo to spice up the boudoir. It has also become synonymous with making medical claims of an incredibly suspect nature.

In August 2017, nonprofit consumer protection watchdog agency Truth in Advertising (TINA) contacted Goop about their "unsubstantiated, and therefore deceptive, health and disease-treatment claims." Later that month, they published a list of "more than 50 instances in which the company claims, either expressly or implicitly, that its products (or those it promotes) can treat, cure, prevent, alleviate the symptoms of, or reduce the risk of developing a number of ailments."

In June, Racked reported that Goop started adding labels that ranked the efficacy of some of the products and treatments they were writing about:

For Your Enjoyment: There probably aren’t going to be peer-reviewed studies about this concept, but it’s fun, and there’s real merit in that.

Ancient Modality: This practice is nearly as old as time—many find value in it, even if modern-day research hasn’t caught up yet (it’s possible the practice will never attract its attention).

Speculative but Promising: There’s momentum behind this concept, though it needs more research to elucidate exactly what’s at work.

Supported by Science: There’s sound science for the value of this concept and the promise of more evidence to come soon that may prove its impact.

Rigorously Tested: The validity of this concept is pretty much undisputed within the world of M.D.’s, D.O.’s, N.D.’s, and Ph.D.’s.

These labels seem to only be applied to certain articles in the "Wellness" category, though Goop makes unbacked claims throughout their digital magazine, at their annual summits, and directly from the mouth of Paltrow. For example, at the January "Goop in Health" summit in NYC, where author Anita Moorjani told attendees she'd cured her cancer using self love.



Yesterday, in a long New York Times profile about Goop and Gwyneth Paltrow, author Taffy Brodesser-Akner shared the news that, in September, the brand would finally be hiring a fact-checker. Akner noted in her piece that Goop originally eschewed working under Condé Naste because: “Goop wanted Goop magazine to be like the Goop website in another way: to allow the Goop family of doctors and healers to go unchallenged in their recommendations via the kinds of Q and As published, and that just didn’t pass Condé Nast standards,” wrote Akner.

While we don't know this future fact-checker's exact role in the company, it seems most reasonable that the digital magazine might be their first stop, especially given Goop's shiny new labeling system. Here are a list of posts that a fact-checker might want to study more closely:

Putting Coffee in your Butt

(Listed without label.)

Goop's "Beauty & Wellness Guide" touts numerous ways to cleanse your colon, some of them via crystal decked spas, some of them DIY. Notably, Goop peddles a $135 coffee enema system called the "Implant O’Rama."

The notion of colonic irrigation as a valid method of "detox" has been thoroughly debunked. Though enemas can be done safely as a precursor to anal sex, from a medical standpoint it's mostly considered the method of last resort for treating severe constipation. It can also be quite dangerous for those who are unfamiliar—outcomes can include vomiting and diarrhea, electrolyte imbalances, and in extreme cases, perforation of the rectum.

The idea that putting coffee in your sensitive undercarriage has health benefits is unmitigated faffery. It's actually quite dangerous.

Getting Stung by Bees

(Listed without label.)

The benefits of bee honey and pollen aren't completely known, nor is "bee acupuncture" (acupuncture with bee venom), or "apitherapy" (letting yourself get stung by them). Obviously if you're allergic to bees you shouldn't do any of the above.

Regarding "apitherapy" specifically, there is scant evidence that bee stings help treat any maladies. Even more troubling, getting stung by bees can actually increase your sensitivity to them, rendering you potentially allergic to the point of anaphylaxis. A case study in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology noted:

In sensitized persons, venom compounds can act as allergens, causing the release of mast-cell mediators and a spectrum of allergic reactions that can range from mild, local swelling to severe systemic reactions, anaphylactic shock, or even death.

This study also cited the case of a 55-year-old woman with no history of other diseases (asthma, heart diseases, etc.) or history of reactions who went into a permanent coma as a result of the hypotension of severe anaphylaxis. She had attended apitherapy sessions every four weeks for two years.

Paltrow herself has admitted to getting bee sting treatments.

Post Natal Depletion

(Label: "Speculative But Promising.")

According to Goop, even a decade after having a child, you can experiences symptoms like "brain shrinkage" as a result of "baby radar" from being hypervigilant in response to the needs of your child. It is unsubstantiated by modern medical science. While pregnancy does lead to long lasting changes in brain structure, whether it's from baby radar is hard to know, mostly because baby radar isn't an official medical definition or diagnosis. Whether Goop's "Mother Load" supplements do anything about this mysterious ailment remains to be seen.

Goop also sells "High School Genes," "Why Am I So Effing Tired," and "Balls in the Air" supplements as well. Elle asked a registered dietician to evaluate these supplement packets. She said it was hard to know whether they could follow up on their promises, and that eating a balanced diet is preferable to taking vitamins.

Vaginal Steaming

(Listed without label.)

Goop hails Mugworth V-Steam at Tikkun Spa in Los Angeles, as a uterus cleanser and "energetic release." It is unclear whether that works or why you'd need your uterus cleansed in the first place.

Cleanses for Candida and Parasites

(Label: "Speculative But Promising.")

In which Goop explains that Candida (a.k.a. yeast) can overgrow and overpower "the good bacteria" leading to "fatigue, bloating, eczema, dandruff, sugar cravings, a bad memory." Their suggested cure is a cleanse.

The answer to the many parasites of our world is shockingly also a cleanse. This time, specifically with goat milk.

Detoxing Shower Head

(Listed without label.)

Goop's advice column answers a question about "detoxing showers" which is just a thinly veiled advertisement for their very expensive "detox" shower heads. This include the $295 "bronze shower head," which pops open for easy cleaning, because you need to detox your shower head from "all sorts of unpleasantness, from bacteria to mold." Truly, everything can be detoxed and must be detoxed. And anything can be upsold by adding "detox" to the marketing copy.

Vaginal Jade Egg

(Label: "Ancient Modality.")

No quintessential Goop list would be complete without it.


And, as honorable mentions, two that Goop has already conceded to labeling "For Your Enjoyment":

"Bio-frequency" Healing Stickers

Goop calls these stickers "Body Vibes," and the website claims they are made of "NASA space suit material" that is "pre-programmed to an ideal frequency, allowing them to target imbalances." NASA was understandably not happy about this.

The stickers also apparently "clear skin by reducing inflammation and boosting cell turnover."

Earthing

Goop claims that many of our problems come from the lack of a physical connection from "mother Earth," and that walking around barefoot a.k.a. "earthing" can cure a range of ailments from insomnia to literally everything that comes as a result of inflammation. From the interview with expert "Earther" Clint Ober:

"The earth has an infinite supply of free electrons, so when a person is grounded, those electrons naturally flow between the earth and the body, reducing free radicals and eliminating any static electrical charge. The reason grounding is so powerful is it reduces and prevents inflammation from occurring in the body, which in turn prevents inflammation-related health disorders.

As you might guess, Ober has a website of various products associated with Earthing practices, even though they aren't made of earth—despite my uncultured assumptions that perhaps these products had dirt shoved in them. According to Ober, these items are apparently, "constructed of carbon-based polyurethane" and can be plugged in.

"Carbon is a natural conductor, so when you connect the pad to the wire, which is connected to the ground through the ground port, you equalize the electrical potential of the mat with the earth, giving your body access to the planet’s free electrons," Ober added, in an interview with Goop. In this fashion, you could spend a large part of the day grounded, even if you’re working from a desk."

Buying an "Earthing Grounded Silver Sleep Pad Large Kit" will set you back $190.

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