Science-ish blog: Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook borders on quack science

Julia Belluz writes the Science-ish blog – a joint project of Maclean’s, the Medical Post and the McMaster Health Forum in Toronto.  This week she reviewed Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book, “It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great.” Excerpts:

“Science-ish was immediately stung by the panorama of pseudoscience premises on which the cookbook rests.

Paltrow opens by describing how she was literally brought to the brink of death—culminating in no less than a migraine and panic attack—after too many stress- and French fry-filled months.

She undergoes what sounds like every medical test imaginable, and finds she has a thyroid problem, anemia, vitamin D deficiency, a congested liver, hormones that were “off,” and “inflammation” in her system. “Another roster of tests” exposed “high levels of metals and a blood parasite.” Mixing her young children into the madness, she gets them tested for food sensitivities, too, and finds they are all intolerant of gluten, dairy, and chickens’ eggs, among other things.

While some of her ailments (An inflamed system? High metal levels?) are questionable bordering on quack-ish, and food-sensitivity testing has been shown to be an expensive waste of time, the most distressing part of the book is what comes next.*

The actress says she went to her doctor, Alejandro Junger—also known as the MD behind the “Clean” regime—and he prescribed an “elimination diet.” Instead of addressing and finding the causes of some of Paltrow’s real health woes, like vitamin deficiency, anemia, and liver congestion, which can be caused by heart failure, he advises she cut out basically everything but quinoa and lettuce. No meat, potatoes, sugar, dairy, eggs, coffee, alcohol, wheat, and, oddly, bell peppers, corn, and eggplant.

Science-ish asked Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an evidence-based and obesity-focused family physician, about the scientific basis for such a purge. He said, “The recommendation itself at best can be described as non evidence-based hope, and at worst, as plain old malpractice.”

Belluz hit a nerve on this one.  See the 30 comments and 125 Twitter reactions (and counting) as of this posting.

And here’s a podcast in which she discusses the book and the claims in it.

I finally met Belluz at the recent Association of Health Care Journalists annual conference in Boston and she and I will be on a panel together at the 8th World Conference of Science Journalists in Helsinki in June.


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Don Piontek

April 5, 2013 at 4:32 pm

More proof that we are in an age when real science has been relegated to a back seat behind anecdotal evidence and pseudo-“experts”. The best is the gluten thing. All of a sudden, half the population has become gluten-intolerent. Every time I walk into an organic food coop, or a vitamin shop, I marvel at the product claims which are not supported by any empirical scientific evidence at all.

    Beth Kitchin PhD RD

    April 8, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Agree- this gluten craze is particularly ridiculous. Last week, someone told me that she went on google and found out that she is gluten insensitive! Wow – Dr. Google!