Abstract

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

Introduction

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.

Results

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.

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 2.32.38 AM

After the 51 items were excluded there were 110 unique products left for analysis (see Table 1)

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 2.09.21 AM

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.

Discussion

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.

Join the Conversation

82 Comments

  1. It makes me sick (no pun intended) Gwyneth Paltrow & GOOP are not only profiting from this crap but may be harming women as well. Thank you Dr. Jen Gunter! Love that you’ve taken on the GOOP chain of bullshit!

  2. Please keep doing what you do. I read and share all your columns. They provide the best no nonsense information for women’s health that I have ever had the pleasure to receive.

  3. I’d like to share a small research project I undertook as it points out a health danger associated with reading Dr. Gunter’s blog and this piece in particular. The setting was my kitchen, the subject was me and the equipment was my iPad open to this posting and a box of raisins. To cut to the clinical conclusion, attempting to eat raisins while reading this blog on an iPad may lead to uncontrollable laughter and chewed raisins spewed on the iPad. By inference, this poses a small but real risk of aspiration pneumonia.

    PS: Dr. Gunter, you are priceless. Many, many thanks for your efforts.

  4. How on Earth you, with a mere medical degree, could hope to match wits with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, a girl who graduated from high school on academic probation, the only girl in her class not to get into college, until over the summer Michael Douglas wrote her a letter of recommendation to UCLA, which she ended up dropping out of anyway… Well, obviously I could go on and on about how academically gifted and intellectually curious Gwyneth Paltrow is, but if you think you know better, well, I sure am enjoying your attempts!

  5. “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.”

    I have been reading medical journals for over 30 years. This may be the best line I have ever read in a research study.

  6. I have been subscribed to goop since the beginning the only thing I’ve noticed is it has spiraled down to just a site that sells stuff…. Nothing I purchase.. it was much better in the beginning where she just did basic cooking, and recipes , vacation ideas exercising tips and it was her own personal site ..I don’t even think she runs goop anymore .. it was a lot more fun ..now it’s just plain weird.

    1. Goop herself has said that she began to realize that she could “monetize eyeballs.” Then she poached someone or many someones from the worst of the supplement peddlers, many of whom are multimillionaires (see: the very dangerous Joe Mercola, Sears, and others who have faced FDA reprimands) from selling absolute trash. Since it takes a lot of cash to live in the Hamptons when your career is essentially dead and you like to wear $400 t-shirts, this was the logical next step for reeling in all the aspirational ninnies. Plus there’s her adoring mother and now an idiot husband who both seem to think from their public statements that she is The World’s Most Perfect Female. I think they’ve been cut in on Goop profits (surprise, surprise). Goose and golden egg and all that.

      She doesn’t seem to have learned that so much sun exposure will bite you down the road, but what’s a little skin cancer when you have such a crew of “medical professionals and scientists” to rake in whatever it takes to keep those Caribbean beach holidays coming?

  7. People love that word “essential” in “essential oils”, but essential oils were really only ever “essential” to the plant they were squeezed out of.

    1. It’s my understanding that this usage of “essential” means “essence of,” not “important.”

  8. EEEH Jen youve done it yet again….. well done and keep going girl.You could actually save the world.

  9. As early as 1906, it’s been written that a fool is born every minute. (https://preview.tinyurl.com/yctbke5w) Ms. Paltrow doesn’t force anyone to buy her products. And as the comic con artist Harry Anderson said frequently, fools and their money were lucky to get together in the first place. While we may be aghast at the seemingly nice and sweet Paltrow taking advantage of ‘poor, unsuspecting’ [read: gullible] folks, we must also remember that the onus is on people to be responsible for their own decisions and choices. All that said, it is an excellent article. Too bad it is preaching to the choir and not the people who really need to be seeing it.

    1. This is a free blog. A post like this takes 5-6 hours minimum to research and write. I have no advertisements. If my typos offend you I don’t really give a fuck. People who appreciate the effort point them out in a nice way. They get the effort. Assholes make comments like yours.

      1. I’ve written research papers for school that took 5-6 weeks to research and write. I then had to type them on paper because personal computers didn’t exist yet. But that didn’t stop me from making sure I used proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation, even though doing so often meant starting the whole page over again. And my manual typewriter didn’t have spellcheck to help out. I certainly appreciate effort when it’s evident, but errors like spelling “researcher” two different ways in one sentence of the last paragraph (and not just because one was singular and one was plural) make it difficult to see.

      2. @Dennis Kovacich
        Grammar, spelling and using precise terminology are indeed crucial now more than ever as social media is proving. However, this blog does not have an editor, does not run on its own server and every single one of us contributes when we can.

        Ya see, there’s a run on sentence for you.

        Point out the errors, suggest corrections, share it.

    2. Yeah, Dr Jen, why haven’t you put more effort into your free blog? Dennis has standards! And he’s entitled. After all, he’s a man! Why shouldn’t he be able to criticize a female doctor doing a public service for free for making minor errors. If he didn’t critique the typos, he’d have nothing to mansplain about!

      In short, LEAVE DENNIS ALONE!

      1. I am an actual biomedical editor and grant proposal writer, and the first thing you learn in my gig is that researchers and clinicians can be unbelievably busy people. If some kind of pedantry is required to polish an often hastily prepared document, that’s my job. Otherwise I am not bothered when someone has a few easily fixed problems with a manuscript. I get paid to fix them. She doesn’t have anyone like me. I amazed that she’s even doing this.

        This doc is providing an invaluable public service with this blog, so I’m not inclined to be very polite toward this Dennis person’s nitpickery and pedantry. If that’s your thing, go somewhere else. You try doing unpaid research on deadline with many other professional commitments giving very informative content a dash of well-deserved sarcasm and humor.

    3. You, Dennis, need to take a seat. There are three ninth-grade punctuation errors in your various sanctimonious whiny posts. And yes, I am an actual professional at this.

  10. “have a vitain B12 deficiency”
    Excellent read, but I found a misspelled word and thought you’d like to update.

  11. I wonder if – once we harness the energy of the moon into an egg – we could use it to destroy the anti-vaxx movement. (Sounds kind of like star wars now).

  12. Can we use the word ‘goop’ instead of ‘bullsh*t’?

    “I don’t beleive you.What a load of goop!”

    1. @Dennis Kovacich
      See my responses above

      Your tone was condescending in your second response. If you want to be grammatically correct one does not put a comma before “and” as you did. If you read through her blog she swears a lot and she is well aware of her orthographical errors, but the substance is there; sometimes light and humorous, sometimes very serious.

      The effort of which she speaks is that she took a mindblowing amount of time and patience to summarize goop’s nonsense into something that looks like a research paper and is educating through humor.

      What certain males of your generation need to understand is that incredibly accomplished women like her deal with this constant insulting criticism their entire careers. She could have responded that people used to write longhand using quills on parchment paper and thank goodness we no longer have to.

  13. Hey Jen! Wonderful post, as always! I love reading you debunk all of this GOOP nonsense!

    I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the clips from when Gwyneth was on Jimmy Kimmel last year, but I came across one of them on Youtube today and thought of you right away, so had to share the link in case you hadn’t seen it:

    I laughed so hard, mind boggling that she doesn’t know (or claims not to know) what it even put up on her own site, and came damned close to admitting it was all BS.

    Keep up the amazing work, I love what you do!

  14. Thank you for the Truth! My wife and I cringe every time we go by the pseudo section in any store. Guys at work actually ask me about common “alternate treatments” since I have no qualms of pulling up articles from real scientists and nutritionist such as yourselves. I will have this one on “speed dial”!

  15. I’ve recently read about women being discriminated in scientific fields. Qwyneth Paltrow is probably not helping.

    I don’t understand your reference to the “pseudoscience color wheel”.

  16. The modern furniture retailer cb2 (www.cb2.com) is promoting goop and Paltrow. Paltrow and fellow goopies were featured in a recent catalogue and goop furniture is still available on the cb2 website. Apparently, cb2’s marketing department can’t do basic Google searches and discover the controversy surrounding Paltrow’s dubious products or maybe they just don’t care. I emailed the company and objected, asking that they take my name off their mailing list. Based on the quality of goop’s products, I have to imagine their chairs and such are equally worthless.

  17. Well, at least the name is appropriate – Goop actually peddles “goop” – defined as “expensive stuff with no known useful purpose”.

  18. It is painful to watch her…. she is con artist, Thank you Dr. Jen for your article, do you have a FB page?

  19. “An incense stick was also excluded, but there was some muttering over this.”

    Dude I wish all scientific writing was as entertaining as this.

    Related: can I call a doctor ‘dude’, or should I have stuck with ‘doc’?

  20. I love reading your responses to the Goop claims! As a Registered Nurse in a large urban trauma center, evidence based practice is my life. I laugh and shake my head when I read what you’ve written. At the same time it scares me that there are many women (and men) who believe the claims Goop makes because of the celebrity. Keep up the good work!!

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