Objective: To identify evidence that Gwyneth Paltrow is correct in her statement that the website GOOP does not sell pseudoscience.
Materials and Methods: A search of the products sold on GOOP.com in the wellness section.
Results: Biologically implausible therapies and ill-researched products were identified. The majority of health products (90%) could not be supported by science.
Conclusions: There is no evidence to support Gwyneth Paltrow’s claim that goop is free of pseudoscience. In fact the opposite is true, goop is a classic example of pseudoscience profiteering. The bulk of their products are useless, but some could be harmful.
Keywords: jade, crystals, vagina, coffee, enema, supplements, toxins, medical conspiracy theories, Epstein Barr Virus, mediums, vitamin B12 injections
In October 2018 Gwyneth Paltrow was interviewed by the BBC and disagreed that she and goop are engaged in promoting and peddling pseudoscience.
False online claims about health products and the promotion of pseudoscientific practices by both complementary and alternative medicine providers and celebrities has been well-described. Gwyneth Paltrow has previously endorsed therapies that have no scientific basis, such as vaginal jade eggs, apitherapy, and colonic administration of coffee via the rectum, so this researcher sought to identify any products sold by goop.com that could be considered pseudoscience to counter Gwyneth Paltrow’s belief.
Material and Methods
The wellness section of goop.com was reviewed on October 12, 2018.
The product categories were as follows: “wellness,” “between the sheets,” “cosmic therapy,” “aromatherapy,” “oral care,” “feminine care,” “grocery,” and “workout accessories.” The categories as designed by goop.com were not applicable for research purposes, in fact they made little sense at all. This researcher found them frustrating and nonsensical. For example, some essential oils were categorized as “cosmic therapies” and others as “aromatherapy” even though the stated purposes were similar and no reasoning for the difference was identified. Some supplements were listed as both “vitamins and supplements” and “groceries.” Supplements should not be considered food or a replacement for food, so the researcher hoped this was an oversight on the part of goop.com and not a marketing ploy.
As the goop.com organizational system was unworkable and causing a headache, a new list of categories was devised. Products were sorted into the following categories: supplements and vitamins, urogenital health, crystal-based, essential oils, work out products, food, vibrators and BDSM, books, oral care, spiritual and occult, and other.
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. Misuse of the word “toxin” for a product that otherwise was not medically harmful was considered misleading advertising.
A total of 161 unique products were identified in the goop.com wellness store.
A decision was made to exclude books. There were 4 items and the reviewer had previously reviewed a portion of one book — the Sex book — and reading about the Sacred Snake Ceremony just about did her in and she didn’t think she could read anymore. In addition, it would be hard to classify an entire book as pseudoscience unless it were written by Anthony Williams, The Medical Medium — a man who talks with a ghost and then charges for the health advice provided by said ghost. The Medical Medium is a favorite of both goop.com. Dr. Junger, one of goop’s trusted medical experts, wrote the forward for one of The Medical Mediums’ books.
The 18 products for sexual enjoyment were excluded from analysis as sexual preference is personal. Some women may find a $3,490.00 vibrator of value and others may clamor for a $149 vibrator worn around your neck that looks uncomfortably like a dog whistle. (Are you supposed to finger it in public as a mating display?).
Oral care was difficult to evaluate as a toothbrush may be personal and while fluoride-free toothpaste is likely inferior to fluoride-containing paste it is not useless — this excluded 10 items.
A total of 4 food items were excluded as was exercise equipment that didn’t make egregious health claims. This excluded 4 yoga mats and 2 foam rollers. A $32 glass water bottle and charcoal water purifying sticks were also excluded as no specific health claims were made and some people prefer the taste of filtered water. An incense stick was also excluded, but there was some muttering over this.
Tarot cards and spiritual items (e.g. a singing bowl) were excluded (6 items), although the researcher acknowledges that spirituality and religion can have a beneficial impact for some people.
The body vibe stickers made from the non existent NASA techcology are not sold on GOOP, much to this researcher’s dismay, but they still promote them.
After the 51 items were excluded there were 110 unique products left for analysis (see Table 1)
There were 54 supplement products. Energy bars that made health claims were included In the supplement category — 53 products could not be supported by the medical literature. Being kind, the vitamin D3 supplement was considered evidence-based as it may be indicated for vitamin D deficiency. The people who might benefit from supplementation (e.g. older people, limited sun exposure, etc) were not listed on the site. It was promoted for acne.
Urogenital health included the following:
- 3 different packages of condoms: condoms are supported by evidence based medicine for contraception and prevention of STIS. No evidence supports these bespoke products, but like all good scientists this researcher is happy with whatever gets you to glove up.
- 2 “yoni” eggs: useless.
- 6 lubricants: distinguishing between some lubricants and essential oils was a challenge and admittedly errors may have been made — 3 lubricants appear to be acceptable products with no identifiable health risks and 3 contained oils that have been untested or may cause irritant reactions.
- 4 menstrual hygiene products: menstrual cup, 1 brand of tampons (previously reviewed here), two packages of pads. All products are supported by evidence, the tampons were presented with deceptive marketing about “toxins.”
- 1 Elvie: there is no scientific evidence supporting the Elvie. The author has personally emailed the company confirming the absence of studies (July 2018).
Of the 16 urogenital health products, concerns about scientific validity were raised for 6.
There is no data to support any benefit from crystals because they do not take on the healing energy of the earth and remember things from all time. Essential oils also are a nope. Both crystals and essential oils were given 100% on the woo scale. Nice smelling things are nice, but that isn’t health care..
The “other” category had a $4,000 infrared sauna previous hocked on the site as an adjunct for cancer care (no shame, simply no shame), a $180 “spine mat,” 2 diffusers for essential oils, and a bag of rocks: 0 for 5 here.
Of 110 products that made health claims or could be considered a health-related product only 10 had any kind of valid claim, meaning 10% of products were not pseudoscience.
The goop store is 90% quackatorium and there was no evidence supporting Gwyneth Paltrow’s claim that goop does not engage in pseudoscience as a commercial venture. Pseudoscience is their commercial venture wellness-wise (the assumption was made that pseudoscience did not play a direct role in selling pashmina shawls and culottes).
In addition to the wellness products, much of the health information presented on goop.com was associated with pseudoscientific beliefs. Another prominent feature is trusted physician experts who endorse conspiracy theories, such as AIDs denialism, vaccines causing autism, bras causing breast cancer, and fluoride causing harm. Belief in medical conspiracy theories is known to be associated with avoidance of evidence based health practices.
Goop also promotes the Medical Medium, a man who speaks with a ghost to dispense health information. They have also featured a medium online and at In Goop Health. Mediums are by definition pseudoscience.
The psuedoscience also reaches out and touches you. At In Goop Health there are free vitamin B12 shots, which are unnecessary unless you have a vitamin B12 deficiency. Hopefully, the new goop scientists can calculate the odds that all the women attending a goop event are vitamin B12 deficient? Perhaps they will also point out that oral works quite well, so the injection is for show?
This review only focused on the products, but almost every item for sale used words incorrectly, the most common misued ones were “toxins” and “energy.”
This analysis also indicates that goop appears to have passed through activated charcoal and turmeric and are now entering the apple cider vinegar part of the pseudoscience color wheel just in time for fall.
In summary, 90% of products sold on goop.com under the guise of wellness cannot be backed by science and many flout common sense, never mind biological principles. Some therapies, such as the supplements, could be harmful as they are high in vitamin A and three of them contain green tea leaf extract which is associated with liver injury. The concern is so great that liver specialists specifically advice against all supplements with green tea extract even in blends. There is also the concern that many supplements don’t even contain what they say.
The idea that goop is not pseudoscience is not supported by the evidence that Gwyneth Paltrow herself has carefully curated for her own website.
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 as well as the equation for calculating the energetic frequency of the human body.
Correction (10:30 a.m. 10/13/18)
A statistical error has been noted by the author likely due to late night maths and the mental toll of trying to separate essential oils from lubricants. This changes the percentage of pseudoscience from 95% to 90%. This still meets quackatorium criteria, but as science is always eager to adopt corrections and take in new evidence as it presents itself, the above paper has been updated to reflect this change.