2011 Celebrities And Science List Announced
Simon Cowell and Gwyneth Paltrow are among the celebrities who have made the annual list of bad science this year, an undertaking by the Sense About Science (SAS) charity.
Along with celebrities, often comes fad diets, miracle cure-alls, and misunderstandings about science, and this year’s list of celebrity science feats are definitely out there.
In 2011, X Factor producer Simon Cowell though it would be better to have vitamins delivered intravenously and news TV host Bill O’Reilly said Earth’s tides were a mystery.
The annual SAS list also named reality star Nicole Polizzi, Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann and singer-songwriter Suzi Quatro as top offenders in abuse against science, based on their respective views on why the sea is salty, cervical cancer vaccine risks and colon health.
“I used to get a lot of sore throats and then one of my sisters told me that all illnesses start in the colon. I started taking a daily colon cleanser powder mixed with fresh juice every morning and it made an enormous difference,” Quatro told the Daily Mail newspaper.
The SAS, keen on dispelling such myths, asked qualified scientists from various disciplines to comment on some of the worst celebrity science offenses.
“The colon is very important in some diseases, but it certainly is not the cause of all illnesses,” said Melita Gordon, a consultant gastroenterologist said in the review. “Sore throats do not come from your colon; they are caused by viruses that come in through your nose and mouth. Taking ‘colon cleansers’ has no beneficial effect on your throat – or on your colon.”
While the annual list certain provides some entertainment value, the campaign group stresses it has a serious aim — to make sure pseudo-science is not allowed to become accepted as true.
Tracey Brown, SAS’s managing director, said it is 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.”
“At a time when celebrities dominate the public realm, the pressure for sound science and evidence must keep pace,” said Brown.
Some of the most fascinating pseudo-scientific suggestions came via repeated second hand information picked up at parties and other social gatherings — often not the most reliable places to pick up information.
Christian Louboutin, a French footwear designer, was taken with something a fellow party guest told him about shoes. “She said that what is sexual in a high heel is the arch of the foot, because it is exactly the position of a woman’s foot when she orgasms. So putting your foot in a heel, you are putting yourself in a possibly orgasmic situation,” he explained.
Kevan Wylie, a consultant in sexual medicine, responded dryly that it’s important to differentiate cause from effect. “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,” he said.
Also, on a Goop blog, Gwyneth Paltrow wrote: “I have gooped about Dr Alejandro Junger’s Clean program 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….Here’s to a happy liver and an amazing 2011!”
Dr Christian Jessen, a GP and TV presenter said that, though everyone tried to start the New Year with good intentions for a healthy lifestyle, a detox plan was not the answer. “Your body has its own fantastic detox system already in place in the shape of your liver and kidneys. Much better to drink plenty of water, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and let your body do what it does best.”
US congresswoman Michelle Bachman claimed to journalists earlier this year that the vaccine against HPV, used to protect girls against cervical cancer, was linked to mental retardation.
However, there is no evidence that “the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation or that there are dangerous consequences,” said Professor Sean Kehoe, a gynecological oncologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. “The evidence that cervical cancer causes deaths, however, is unquestionable. The vaccination program in the UK is forecast to save 400 young lives each year in the UK.”
Unfortunately, stories like these, end up causing more harm than they do good; as people are led to believe certain ideas they once took for granted could possibly harm them. The truth is, nearly all the hubbub you hear from celebrities on science is false, or at best, misinformation.
The SAS review did finish on a good note, however. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, had this year warned of the potentially damaging consequences of dieting: “A whole generation of young women could be affected,” she said. “What particularly concerns me is the rise of osteoporosis in young people and its link with eating disorders.”
“During childhood and early adulthood bones develop their strength. Therefore it is very important to strengthen bones in the first 30 years of life to ‘stockpile’ calcium and other minerals. Following a restrictive diet, particularly cutting out food groups like dairy without substitution, can put your bone health at risk,” said Dietician Sian Porter, concurring with the Duchess’ statement.
“As president of the National Osteoporosis Society, Her Royal Highness is clearly well informed about diet and bone health. Unfortunately this is not the case with many celebrities who give advice based on their personal opinions rather than being evidence-based, or recycle poor advice given to them by unqualified self-styled ‘gurus’,” said Porter.
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