Gwyneth Paltrow and her publication, Goop, have been sharing her celebrity lifestyle since the site launched in 2008. It’s jealousy-inducing for some, while others have complained that it’s totally “out of touch.”
But when it comes to health tips, the site is full of dodgy information, with unfounded warnings about things that are safe — like bras and sunscreen — and zealous promotion of things with little-to-no proven benefits — like cleanses and vaginal steaming, not to mention various trendy diets. Some of the alternative medicine practices on the site could even be dangerous.
In a statement provided to Tech Insider, Goop said that readers should consult their doctors before “making any changes in [their] medical routine.” A similar warning appears at the very bottom of many posts, clarifying that they intend to “highlight alternative studies” and that “the views of the author … do not necessarily represent the views of Goop.”
“Goop regularly shares perspectives and insights from a range of experts in health, wellness, and other fields,” Goop said in the statement. “The thoughts shared … stimulate discussion and conversation on a variety of topics for the consideration of our readers.”
Yet some of these “insights” are scientifically indefensible.
We looked into the science behind Goop’s most dubious claims.
The latest false claim on Goop -- that underwire bras could be a cause breast cancer -- has been repeatedly refuted by top experts and organisations. The author of the post, Habib Sadeghi, is not an oncologist but a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at an integrative health center in Los Angeles. (He's previously come under fire for a Goop essay advancing the idea that negative words can change the physical structure of water.)
As the nonprofit BreastCancer.org points out on its website, only one scientific study has specifically looked at the possible connection. Its title? 'Bra Wearing Not Associated with Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case-Control Study.'
The American Cancer Society also has an entire post dedicated to disproving this claim.
Dr. David Gorski, a breast cancer surgeon, also wrote a thorough takedown of this myth for Science-Based Medicine, referencing the same study that BreastCancer.org mentioned:
According to this study, there was no increased risk of breast cancer due to wearing a bra, a result that, to breast cancer specialists, was about as surprising as the observation that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, water is wet, and gasoline flammable.
A Goop post about rebounding, which is a fancy term for doing exercise on a trampoline, cited a study that reportedly found the practice was much more beneficial for your heart than running.
'NASA has done research on rebounding and found that it is 68 per cent more effective for cardiovascular health and fat burning than running!' the story claimed.
We did some digging and found the study. It's from 1980. The researchers, who were indeed working with NASA, looked at the differences between oxygen uptake and body acceleration when running vs. jumping.
Their goal was to figure out which one might be better for astronauts dealing with the 'deconditioning' that happens when they're weightless. (Your average gym rat, meanwhile, is probably not trying to find the best workout for zero gravity, so the results are not entirely relevant.)
The 68% number was actually a measurement of the percentile difference in acceleration (as measured at the back) between running and jumping. It was not a measurement of fat burning.
Furthermore, the study only had eight participants, who were all male. That's too small and homogeneous of a sample to prove much of anything.
The scientists note in their paper that 'heart rate and oxygen uptake ranged from resting to nearly maximal levels, regardless of the type of exercise.' In other words: get moving, any which way, and you can reap the heart-healthy benefits of exercise.
Goop recommends sticking only to 'clean,' non-toxic sunscreens. In explaining 'Why chemical sunscreens aren't great,' Goop says, 'Chemical sunscreens employ a potent combination of chemicals like Oxybenzone, Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate), Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, and Avobenzone, many of which are hormone and endocrine disruptors.'
Scared yet? In fact, clinical studies have found that these ingredients are not harmful to human health.
In a 2011 study on 'sunscreen controversies,' a team of doctors from Memorial Sloan-Kettering did a thorough review of previous research and found that the only data showing these ingredients were questionable came from animal studies, usually with extremely high doses -- not studies in humans, or with doses typically used in humans.
'None of the data published to date conclusively demonstrate adverse effects on the health of humans from the use of sunscreens,' the authors concluded. The study noted in particular that oxybenzone hasn't shown hormone disruption in humans.
A follow-up study from 2014 came to the same conclusion: sunscreen ingredients aren't harmful to humans, and applying sunblock to prevent skin cancer is extremely important. You don't need 'clean' sunscreens to get these benefits.