Goop, vaginal eggs, and the danger of celebrity endorsements

Commonly known for her roles in various blockbuster hits and critically acclaimed films, from Shakespeare in Love to The Avengers franchise, and as a self proclaimed lifestyle guru, Gwyneth Paltrow regularly makes headlines both on and off the screen. Despite her success however, her lifestyle empire has been routinely scrutinised by the media and scientists alike.

Paltrow is the founder of lifestyle brand Goop. Launched in 2008, the company offers advice on wellness and health through their print magazine and has also launched health-related pop-up shops.

This year, however, Goop agreed to pay $145,000 for making unscientific claims about one of their products: vaginal eggs.

Simply put, Paltrow’s company claimed its jade and rose quartz eggs could balance hormones and regulate menstrual cycles when inserted vaginally.  The instructions of how to use these eggs, as described by Youtuber Candace Lowry, indicated to “boil it for a few minutes to clean it, place it on a beautiful piece of fabric, light a candle, burn some sage, become one with your egg.” Following the lawsuit, Goop was forbidden to sell any more products based on false scientific claims.

The court judgement has introduced new punishments for claiming false efficacy claims and all customers who purchased the egg will be refunded the full $66. This case highlights Paltrow’s unethical use of stardom to sell products, especially considering that Paltrow’s company was reportedly making over 50 illegal health claims (according to Truth in Advertising).

Gwyneth Paltrow is, however, not the only celebrity guilty of using her celebrity status to give false medical advice. Multiple sports personalities have advocated for certain diets to get “in shape,” with little to no scientific basis to back them up. American football legend Tom Brady, for example, told his followers that in order to accelerate muscle recovery, one has to eat “nightshade” vegetables such as aubergines and tomatoes in order to alkalise one’s pH levels.

But, while Brady is a successful sportsman, he may not necessarily have a matching scientific mind. Tim Caulfield, a Canadian health policy maker and pseudoscience critic, stated in regards to Brady’s claims: “there is no evidence to support this monk-like approach to eating.”

As the New York Times said, the world should not condone this “special kind of dark art,” whereby famous personalities “corral the vitriol of the internet and the ever-present…cultural ambivalence about Gwyneth Paltrow herself and turn them into cash.”

It is of vital importance that we as a society are willing and able to hold celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Brady, and others accountable to claims that are not supported by reliable scientific evidence, and are for the sole purpose of a monetary reward.

Image credit: Michael Mayer via Flickr

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