Last month, Gwyneth Paltrow’s award-winning “lifestyle brand” Goop found itself in legal trouble after a California court gently reminded it that vagina eggs and anti-depressant aromatherapy oils are backed by, well, zero science at all.
So to defend her company against allegations that squeezing coffee up your butt is scientifically questionable, Paltrow took to the BBC earlier this month to explain just how evidence-based Goop’s products really are.
“We have a whole regulatory team in place now, and a science and research team… we disagree with [accusations of pseudoscience] wholeheartedly,” she said, before explaining that “there are healing modalities that have existed for thousands of years… [a] western doctor… might not believe necessarily in the healing powers of essential oils… any time you are trying to move the needle and you’re trying to empower women, you know, you find resistance, and we just think that’s part of what we do, and we’re proud to do it.”
Convinced? Neither was Dr Jennifer Gunter, a physician and long-time Goop critic who found herself so empowered by Paltrow’s claims that she decided to unleash science’s most powerful weapon against them: rigorous, objective analysis.
In a blog post titled “I reviewed all 161 of GOOP’s wellness products for pseudoscience. Here’s what I found” (read it, it’s amazing), Dr Gunter sets out her objective, method, results, and discussion just as you’d see in any scientific paper.
Clarifying the experiment’s definition of “pseudoscience”, Dr Gunter explains that “products were considered pseudoscience if there was scientific evidence advising against the product (or class of product) or if the hypothesis was biologically implausible or non-existent.”
The results? Let’s just say that “science and research team” should probably start looking for new employment.
After a handful of products were excluded from the study after being deemed too personal or vague to provide meaningful analysis – as well as books, on the basis that “reading about the Sacred Snake Ceremony just about did [Gunter] in and she didn’t think she could read anymore” – a total of 110 items were sorted into five groups: 54 “supplements”, 16 “urogenital health” items, four “crystals”, 31 “essential oils”, and five items classified as “other”.
All of the “supplements” fell short of the low “supported by any medical literature” bar – one vitamin D supplement almost made it, but lost out due to being marketed as a treatment for acne, rather than the vitamin D deficiency it could actually do anything for.
The “urogenital health” products fared surprisingly well, if only thanks to Gunter’s lenient grading: all condoms passed the test, on the basis that condoms are good, as did all the menstrual hygiene products – Goop’s accompanying “toxin” message notwithstanding. In total, 10 of these products were deemed not to be pseudoscience.
Zero crystals or essential oils were found to be scientifically supported. Obviously.
Neither were any of the “other” products supported by science – leaving a total of 10 out of 110 products that could be considered not pseudoscience.
“The goop store is 90 percent quackatorium,” Gunter concludes. “There was no evidence supporting Gwyneth Paltrow’s claim that goop does not engage in pseudoscience as a commercial venture.”
But like any good scientist, Dr Gunter is still open to new evidence should it arise.
“This researcher is looking forward to learning from Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘whole team of researchers and scientists’ how to recharge jade eggs with the energy of the Moon,” she said, “as well as the equation for calculating the energetic frequency of the human body.”