A Heavy Dose of Ranting: Beliefs over Evidence

Given my background in science, I wanted to start off the blogging with an article detailing a blend of “science” and a new cultural trend… A few days ago, Gwyneth Paltrow’s company, Goop, held a “Wellness Summit” in Vancouver. This isn’t the first summit and likely won’t be the last, but Paltrow’s company has been coming under fire for making ludicrous claims that are dubious at best and a clear example of fear-mongering based profiteering at worst.

Recently, the company was fined for claims about the Jade Egg, the Rose Quartz Egg, and a tincture named Judge Flower Essence Blend. Sounds harmless, at first, right? Well the claims around the Jade and Rose Quartz eggs purported that they should be inserted into the vagina to regulate hormones, menstrual cycles, and bladder control. There was even an interview claiming that the Jade Egg could increase chi and orgasms. None of this is backed up by evidence or science, by any means whatsoever. Thousands of individuals lined up to buy these vaginal eggs. Dr. Jen Gunter’s blog has detailed why a number of Paltrow’s suggestions are not only misleading, they’re flat-out dangerous [1]. You can watch an interview of Paltrow on Jimmy Kimmel’s show and she seems to have little clue what the company is selling or how any of it works. It appears that Goop is selecting methods and products precisely because they’re “alternative” rather than medically or scientifically backed with evidence.  Despite the fact she or her “doctors” on the company staff, can’t seem to point to any evidence; Goop published an article that essentially attacked Dr. Gunter for daring to criticize Goop products [2].

The company also absurdly asserted that the Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend could prevent depression. What an incredibly dangerous claim to make. Some individuals suffering from depression are resistant to traditional treatments (termed “treatment-resistant depression”) [3]. The unfortunate reality is that when some patients can’t find traditional means to address their medical issues, they seek out alternative means. The desperation to address their problems can lead them to unproven and misleading treatments. Cue the “Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend” tincture.

Recently, Goop paid $145,000 and refunded customers to settle allegations in regards to the eggs and the tincture. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office filed a false advertising lawsuit to elicit the refunds and payment settlement [4]. The court claimed that the company is not allowed to make future health claims without evidence, yet the website still sells a variety of “wellness products” with carefully worded claims. Moreover, Goop continues to sell the Jade and Rose Quartz eggs along with the tincture on their website, albeit without descriptions detailing any medical benefits. However, all their customers remain aware of the claims made about these products; therefore, simply removing a description doesn’t do much to address misinformation. According to Goop, “Goop provides a forum for practitioners to present their views and experiences with various products like the Jade Egg. The law, though, sometimes views statements like this as advertising claims, which are subject to various legal requirements.” – Erica Moore, the company’s chief financial officer [5]. I imagine it’s the fact that Goop is literally selling these products rather than simply “presenting views”.

Despite the false advertising lawsuit and wide criticisms made by medical professionals [6], the Goop summit took place in Vancouver a few days ago [7]. The “In Goop Health Summit” was even allowed to take place on public property, yet refused to allow the media from bringing cameras on site. It definitely begs the question: Why are they afraid to have cameras on site? At what point do government regulators step in to mandate evidence before selling products or treatments? Unfortunately, the World Health Organization seems to be going the other direction. They’ve recently decided to formalize the integration of traditional medicine, i.e. “traditional Chinese medicine”, into the latest International Classification of Diseases codes. These codes are a formal diagnoses classification system. Moreover, an incredibly distinguished journal, Nature, even published a rather biased piece in favour of traditional Chinese Medicine. It seems as if the public desire to “believe” is stimulating organizations to push for such techniques. The appeal of increased readership or a wider audience is seemingly sufficient for organizations and publications to push for such techniques. Rather than setting the standard for the public, it seems as if the public is setting the standard of publications and organizations. It’s becoming a dangerous precedent where public beliefs are superseding evidence.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s