AFTER the heated rhetoric of the election campaign, the whole country could probably do with a restorative health program. Time for a national detox, perhaps.

Happily, there are a multitude of white knights keen to come to the rescue, with their juice fasts, rectal coffee shots, and miracle toxin-removing foot baths.

The bravest, most chivalric knight of all must surely be actor-turned-wellness-entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow, who no doubt has her reasons for choosing the name “goop” for her range of very, very sciency pills and potions.

A 10-day detox kit, for sale at just US$169, includes probiotics, organic psyllium, slippery elm, linseed, green barley, clay, phytonutrient and superantioxidants. Nothing psyllium about that.

Or, for just US$30, you could grab a goop Wellness variety pack of nutritional chews that will, variously, provide you with “laser focus, immune support, [or] relief from those occasional sleepless nights”.

Paltrow last year defended goop against claims it sold products with no scientific basis.

“We really believe that there are healing modalities that have existed for thousands of years, and they challenge maybe a very conventional Western doctor that might not believe necessarily in the healing powers of essential oils or any variety of acupuncture,” she told the BBC after her company paid US$145 000 to settle a case about the medical claims made for its products.

“Anytime … you’re trying to empower women, you find resistance, and we think that’s part of what we do, and we’re proud to do it,” Paltrow went on.

So, the vaginal steaming and insertable jade eggs were about female empowerment, not profit. Good to have that cleared up.

I was delighted to see the indefatigable Canadian gynaecologist Dr Jen Gunter responding to Paltrow’s defence of her company with a comprehensive review of 110 wellness products for sale on the goop website.

“Gwyneth Paltrow has previously endorsed therapies that have no scientific basis, such as vaginal jade eggs, apitherapy, and colonic administration of coffee via the rectum, so this researcher sought to identify any products sold by that could be considered pseudoscience,” Dr Gunter wrote.

Her review identified some evidence-based products: tampons, condoms and, “being kind”, a vitamin D3 supplement that could be indicated for people with deficiency (though it was actually being promoted for acne).

Dr Gunter also noted “some women might find a [$3490] vibrator of value”.

The article in question is 24-carat gold, in case you’re wondering.

But the vast majority of wellness products did not pass the Gunter test.

“There is no data to support any benefit from crystals because they do not take on the healing energy of the earth and remember things from all time,” Dr Gunter wrote.

“Essential oils also are a nope … Nice smelling things are nice, but that isn’t health care.”

All in all, 100 of the 110 products studied were found to be based on pseudoscience, leading Dr Gunter to conclude the goop store was “90% quackorium” and “a classic example of pseudoscience profiteering”.

After the political goop of the past few weeks, let’s hope the incoming federal government will be more Gunter than Paltrow.

Nice smelling things are indeed nice, but even better would be an evidence-based approach to public and planetary health. We can always hope.

Jane McCredie is a Sydney-based science and health writer.



The statements or opinions expressed in this article reflect the views of the authors and do not represent the official policy of the AMA, the MJA or InSight+ unless so stated.

4 thoughts on “What a load of goop

  1. Anonymous says:

    Why are you always so negative and close-minded??
    Is it because doctors are always keen to protect their patch?
    Can’t stand the competition?
    People can spend their money on whatever they like, and you fail to allow for therapeutic benefit from the placebo effect.
    Gwyneth’s only mistake was to couch her treatments in a New Age cloak: if she had instead marketed them as “Traditional Medicine” from an untouched indigenous tribe in the Amazon, they would have been revered and held in esteem.

  2. Anonymous says:

    there is always someone taking advantage of the human need for magic….usually for financial gain

  3. Anonymous says:

    Your witty, insightful commentary is a salve in its own right. Nothing psyllium about that, if I may borrow your line. Write on!

  4. Dr De Leacy. says:

    ‘You never go broke understimating the taste or intelligence of you audience’. ‘Never give a mug an even brake’. Barnham & Bailey. Eternally true Jane.

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