Gwyneth Paltrow said disapproval of her wellness brand Goop is “clickbait and bullsh*t” in a recent interview.
Paltrow added that Goop doesn’t “dole out” advice.
“I think there’s a lot happening in the media right now in terms of trying to say we give health advice,” she said.
“Or, they use the word pseudo-scientific, which drives me crazy because pseudo-science is saying: ‘This pillow will fix your back pain, and we don’t do that. If we’re interested in something, we’ll get an expert opinion and do a Q&A.”
The former actor argued that although a topic explored by Goop might be considered “an emerging modality,” that doesn’t mean it’s without value.
“It might just mean it doesn’t have a double-blind study behind it, but it may be making people feel better and closer to themselves,” Paltrow said.
Goop has experienced legal problems in the past.
In September 2018, it was ordered to pay US$145,000 in civil penalties to settle allegations that it made unscientific claims about the health benefits of a vaginal jade egg and two other products.
The company was also barred from making any future claims about the efficacy of its products unless it can back them up with solid scientific evidence.
That’s why health experts like Timothy Caulfield were troubled to hear about the brand’s new show including a range of controversial health topics from energy healing to communicating with the dead.
Caulfield is a professor in the faculty of law and the school of public health at the University of Alberta, and author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?
While each episode begins with a disclaimer that says, “the following series is designed to entertain and inform — not provide medical advice,” Caulfield worries viewers will consider the show to be medical advice anyway.
“It’s incredibly frustrating that she’s getting this platform to basically spread misinformation about health,” he told Global News.
“We have to remember this is largely an infomercial for [Paltrow’s] brand.”
Caulfield said a “breakdown of trust” between the general public and conventional sources of health information is leading people to believe brands like Goop, despite a lack of scientific evidence to support their claims.
It’s also common for women to feel that their health has long been overlooked by the medical community and that their concerns aren’t heard. Research shows that women are more likely to suffer pain longer than men, and are often taken less seriously by their doctors.
“There’s a famous study … that suggests doctors stop listening to patients after 11 seconds. That’s not to say that they aren’t offering good health care, but people react to that,” Caulfield said.
Brands are aware of this. Many companies do a good job at marketing products and services to women who often feel ignored, Caulfield said, which has helped turn wellness into a trillion-dollar global industry.
“We need to learn from this,” he said. “We need to learn that there are issues in the conventional system that are making these other approaches seem more inviting, and take that seriously.”
How to spot misinformation
In a previous interview with Global News, Dr. Jennifer Gunter offered four “red flags” for spotting fake health news:
- If it’s offered as a miracle cure. There are no miracles in medicine; that doesn’t happen.
- If it can treat everything. If the list of symptoms that it can treat is extensive, then it’s not true.
- If the word “toxins” is used. Doctors don’t talk about toxins. Studies don’t talk about toxins.
- If the information is coming from a site that’s selling the product. You can’t get quality information from that kind of biased source.
“No one would think that they should get their information on depression from a drug company who makes anti-depressants, right?” she said. “So you shouldn’t get your information on a product, or about the medical condition that product treats, from the person selling the product.”
—With files from Global News’ Laura Hensley & Aalia Adam