By Ainsley C. J. Smith, March 22 2021—
Sometimes, wellness means buying a $500 infrared sauna blanket. Well, that’s according to Gwyneth Paltrow, at least — and no, don’t bother asking me what an infrared sauna blanket is.
What I do know is that it’s part of Paltrow’s plan to cure her lingering fatigue and brain fog after contracting COVID-19. That, alongside dieting and a slew of overpriced products from her brand, goop. The reveal of her elaborate scheme prompted the England’s National Health Service (NHS) to remind us that the solutions she’s recommending are “really not the solutions we’d recommend”.
There are no known treatments for COVID-19 — specifically the persisting weakness and tiredness that some experience after the acute illness. This presents a perfect opportunity for someone like Paltrow to jump in and claim that she’s selling the cure.
But pseudoscience, however tempting to believe, can be even more dangerous than the diseases we’re fighting against. Desperate people do desperate things — like buying the $220 hiking shoes that Paltrow claims are a must-have for “sweating out toxins,” to improve long-term COVID symptoms.
Paltrow, actress turned entrepreneur, is a force to be reckoned with. She was able to transform goop, a weekly newsletter, into a multimillion-dollar wellness and lifestyle brand. Disguising corporate greed as female empowerment, goop is an expert at perpetuating pseudoscience for a paycheck.
This isn’t the first time that goop has made unsubstantiated health claims to drive up sales. In 2018, they were sued and ultimately settled over claims that their ‘vaginal eggs’ could balance hormones and even prevent uterine prolapse.
In a goop blog post called “Healing My Body with a Longer-Term Detox,” Paltrow divulges her secret to overcoming COVID symptoms. She shares that healing depends heavily on a collection of pricey products, conveniently sold by goop. She also explains that she will be following Dr. Will Cole’s low carb, no meat, high fat, sugar free, no alcohol diet. She says it’s flexible and more “freewheeling” than what she’s used to. Huh?
Paltrow’s diet is called intuitive fasting — yeah, you read that right. Intuitive fasting. Those words don’t mesh well together for me either. When has my body ever intuitively decided against eating for an extended period of time? But the book Intuitive Fasting by Dr. Will Cole is Paltrow’s new bible and he just happens to thoroughly endorse her goop products too. A mutually beneficial relationship.
Seemingly central to Paltrow’s success on the diet — or ‘protocol’ as she calls it — is goop’s “incredible herbal nonalcoholic cocktail.” One bottle is $32 and the glass that she recommends you drink it with costs $112. So worth it, right? And you’ve got to pay for more than just cocktails. According to Paltrow, Cole suggests that $200 worth of goop supplements per month are “critical” for recovery from COVID-19.
I’m leaning more on the definitely-do-not-trust side of things when it comes to Dr. Will Cole. He preaches about nutrition, but his doctoral degree is chiropractic. He doesn’t have any training in clinical nutrition, research methods or conventional medicine.
What’s worse is that Dr. Will Cole has backed some pretty interesting claims, like using coffee enemas to treat viruses — yes, that means injecting coffee into the rectum. He assures that this is a “natural detoxification tool that’s been used since the late 1800s.” Sorry, but “used since the 1800s” is not a selling point for me, they did some wacky stuff back then.
Cole and Paltrow are a dream team for exploiting fallacies to make a buck. Paltrow claims that she’s “been doing major research and finding some great stuff to support what [she’s] doing.” But it’s impossible to tell if this a blatant lie or a symptom of obscene delusionality. No scientific studies have even remotely indicated that fasting can cure COVID-19. Her $500 infrared sauna blanket and numerous other products probably aren’t going to get us too far either.
We can’t stop these counterfeit claims, but we can debunk them. Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director for the NHS reminds us that, not unlike viruses themselves, “misinformation carries across borders and it mutates and it evolves.” If you are suffering from COVID, my only advice would be to stay as far away from Paltrow and Cole’s predatory schemes as possible — and tell your friends too.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.