Thanks to technological advancement, a.k.a. the Internet, there are myriad reliable sources from which you can draw scientific and medical facts. Unsurprisingly, celebrity interviews aren’t among them.
If you read a magazine, logged on to Twitter or turned on a television at all in 2011, you most certainly heard a snippet of pseudoscience from a recognizable personality such as shoe designer Christian Louboutin, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Jersey Shore’s Snooki or singer Suzi Quatro. While it’s great that these figures have interests beyond their chosen fields, it’s worth noting that most of the time, they don’t really have a clue what they’re talking about. So the charity Sense About Science has rounded up 2011’s most dubious examples of celebrity science.
Case in point: Snooki recently said she hated going to the beach because of the ocean’s saltiness, which was due to all the “whale sperm” in the water. This informational tidbit is not only gross but also quite obviously incorrect. And then there’s Louboutin’s claim that wearing high heels is an erotic adventure for some women, as the encased foot is in a similar position to a woman’s foot during orgasm. Anyone who’s worn a high heel will likely find this claim suspect, and so they should. Sexual-medicine consultant Kevan Wylie told Reuters that a “woman’s foot may be in this position during orgasm, but that does not mean that putting her foot into this position under other circumstances will result in orgasm.”
But what about the claims that aren’t so apparently false? Take the assertion that Quatro made to the Daily Mail newspaper last year that “all illnesses start in the colon” and that by doing daily colon cleanses, the singer-songwriter had fewer sore throats. (This is false; not all ailments begin in the colon. Sore throats don’t, for example.) Or Paltrow’s recommendations on her lifestyle blog of detoxes: “I have gooped about Dr Alejandro Junger’s Clean programme before because it gave me such spectacular results; it is really just the thing if you are in need of a good detox – wanting some mental clarity and to drop a few pounds.” (In fact, doctors have noted that detox programs are largely pointless and possibly even harmful.)
While a good rule of thumb could be to double-check any scientific or medical claims made by entertainers, sometimes these so-called facts are put forward by more prestigious figures. Anyone remember GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s claim that the HPV vaccine was to blame for a young girl becoming “mentally retarded” in Florida? The claim was unproven, but it resonated enough that some worry the false information could affect health policy for years to come.
“It’s tempting to dismiss celebrity comments on science and health, but their views travel far and wide, and once uttered, a celebrity cancer-prevention idea or environmental claim is hard to reverse,” the managing director for Sense About Science, Tracey Brown, told Reuters. “At a time when celebrities dominate the public realm, the pressure for sound science and evidence must keep pace.”
So the next time you find yourself repeating medical tips from reality stars or career politicians, remind yourself that asking a doctor — or even conducting five minutes of Google searching — could shed a more reliable light on the problem.