Sunday 17 December 2017

They're beautiful, rich. . . and full of nonsense

Ed Power

Ed Power

Sipping vinegar makes you skinny. Foie gras causes Alzheimer's. Fizzy water leads to wrinkles. These are just some of the pearls of scientific wisdom revealed to us by celebrities over the past 12 months. And -- surprise, surprise -- it's all nonsense.

Now the scientific community is mounting a belated fight-back against celebrity bunkum.

As part of a campaign to combat what it describes as a rising onslaught of celebrity misinformation, a UK science organisation has published a countdown of the most ludicrous advice offered by the beautiful and famous, and debunked in detail each of their claims.

Pride of place on the list, contained in the UK Celebrity and Science Review, is the claim by Transformers star Megan Fox that vinegar aids weight loss.

"It just cleanses out your system entirely," she said. "It will get rid of, for women who retain water weight from your menstrual cycle and all that, it gets rid of it really fast.

"I'm not one for dieting or exercising, 'cause I'm lazy and I have a really big sweet tooth, so I have to do cleanses every once in a while 'cause of the amount of sugar I take in."

Sounds too good to be true? Guess what -- it is. "As attractive as it sounds, there is no magic pill, lotion or potion for a quick fix to weight loss," said dietician Lucy Jones.

"The body, including the liver, is a well-oiled detoxing machine, which will not be improved by vinegar, whether it be organic, apple cider, unfiltered, or your bog-standard malt vinegar."

"One of my neighbours tried this and there's absolutely no truth to it," adds Cork nutritionist Anna Burns.

"The same is true of drinking green tea. Yes, green tea is lovely and good for you, but then so is normal tea. It won't help you lose weight, not in the real world."

Another actor singled out for attention is former 007 Roger Moore, over his statement that foie gras can pose dire health risks.

"There are . . . surveys suggesting that eating foie gras can lead to Alzheimer's, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis," he told reporters.

"In short, eating foie gras is a really tasty way of getting terminally ill."

Not so, say the experts. Nobody recommends you gorge on the stuff but, in moderation, there is little danger of foie gras condemning you to an early grave.

"No single food should be looked at in isolation or attributed to causing any disease or curing one," said Ms Jones.

And while it may have been some time since she was in with a shout for an Oscar, Gwyneth Paltrow has the honour of making the Celebrity and Science Review for the second year running.

This time she got a mention for her assertion that pesticides pose a risk to small children, her logic being that, if pesticides harm lab animals, then they've got to hurt kids too, right?

Dr John Cherrie, of the UK Institute of Occupational Medicine, said: "Gwyneth misses the point that it is the dose that makes the poison. The amounts in our food are very low and there is no evidence of any ill-effects."

Also chided is Heather Mills, ex-wife of Paul McCartney. She is called to account over her pronouncement to the effect that meat putrefies in the digestive system for 40 years, "and gives you diseases that you die of".

Utter nonsense, retort the experts, who say that all food stuffs pass through the body 'in a matter of days'.

"Celebrity diets very often fall into the category of the high protein, low calorie quick fix," says Anna Burns.

"They encourage people to believe that carbohydrates are the enemy. That's a misconception I am always hearing from my clients. Those kind of high protein diets set up a false metabolism in the body which is quite toxic. And then, when you go back to eating potatoes, you balloon."

Of course, celebs are no strangers to nutty theories. In the run-up to the first Lisbon Treaty referendum, Jim Corr took to the national airwaves to warn of a global conspiracy to create a new world order. And Charlie Sheen is on the record as believing 9/11 was a US government conspiracy. Should we really be all that surprised if celebrities think gargling vinegar burns calories?

"People in the public eye have disproportionately 'loud' voices and, with the internet, misleading claims live on for a long time," said Ellen Raphael of Sense About Science, the organisation which compiled the report.

"This is an open invitation for celebrities to get in touch with scientists to check the facts before speaking out on subjects they know little about."

Still, not everybody with a public profile is guilty of spouting fact-free garbage. Sense About Science praises 80s rock singer Bonnie Tyler for her practical observations on dieting.

"I lost some weight, but I was also on a more sensible diet at the same time which, if I'm cynical, is more likely the reason for the weight loss."

Before you applaud, bear in mind that it's been several decades since Tyler troubled the pop charts. Indeed, you might quibble as to whether she technically qualifies as a celebrity any more.

Could it be that her common sense thoughts on slimming owe something to the fact that, having lived outside the superstar bubble for many years, she's like us: an ordinary schmo.

Irish Independent

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