(Mostly Bad) Celebrity Health Advice

Dr. Zach Levine

March, 2018


For better or worse, celebrities get a lot of attention in our society.  Their faces and names sell product, and so their thoughts and opinions reach many people.  And many people listen to them, even if they don’t actually know what they’re talking about.  This power can and is used for good by a number of celebrities (see below). However, there are a fair number of examples of celebrities giving inaccurate, bad, or even dangerous health advice.  In those cases, hopefully people won’t listen.


Gwyneth Paltrow

(maybe too easy a target; people have written whole books about it)


Vaginal steam treatment: an energetic release – not just a steam douche – that balances female hormone levels.” But douching is not necessary and it disturbs the natural flora of the female reproductive system, increasing the risk of urinary tract infections and yeast overgrowth.


Post on Gwyneth Paltrow’s site by Dr. Habib Sadeghi suggests a link between breast cancer risk and wearing a too-tight bra, a claim that has been discredited by major health organizations, including the American Cancer Society.


In an interview, Paltrow disagreed with doctors who warn patients against tanning saying, “We’re human beings and the sun is the sun – how can it be bad for you? I think we should all get sun and fresh air. I don’t think anything that is natural can be bad for you.”

Unfortunately, while nature is great, it produces some very toxic, poisonous substances.  The sun damages the skin and increases the risk of skin cancer.


Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey

Jenny McCarthy is one of the most well-known proponents of the anti-vaccination movement, a small but vocal faction who refuse to vaccinate their children due to fears that it will lead to autism. Jenny McCarthy has long been a leading voice in the campaign against vaccines, saying that the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine led to her son’s autism. She has also claimed to have “repaired” his autism through vitamins. There’s no scientific basis to these claims, and parents opting against vaccinations for their children lower herd immunity, which is dangerous to everyone’s health, especially the young and elderly.

The belief stems from a 1998 study which was later found to be based on fraudulent data and discredited by the medical community. Numerous large-scale studies over many years have found no connection between vaccines and autism.

Few people remember polio, a devastating infection which is largely eradicated by a vaccine.


January Jones

In 2012, “Mad Men” star January Jones revealed that after giving birth to her son Xander Dane Jones, she had her placenta dried and turned into capsules — which she ingested regularly and credited with staving off postpartum depression.  There are no health benefits to eating the placenta.


Mayim Bialik

“The Big Bang Theory”‘s Mayim Bialik, a neuroscientist as well as an actress, has also spoken favorably about ingesting her own placenta after giving birth. In a 2012 blog post, she argued that “human beings are the only mammals that have chosen to not routinely ingest their placenta, which is consumed by every other mammal for its protein and iron-rich properties that are critical in helping the mother’s body recuperate after giving birth. End of story.”

But despite celebrity backing, a 2015 study found no evidence to support claims of health benefits from eating the placenta.


Ingesting the placenta after giving birth, a practice called placentophagy, is something almost all nonhuman mammals partake in. Enthusiasts believe it may help prevent postpartum depression, reduce post-delivery pain, increase energy levels and improve lactation.

But after reviewing the existing scientific literature on the subject, Dr. Crystal Clark, a psychiatrist specializing in reproduction-related mood disorders at Northwestern University, found that there is no data to support these claims. What’s more concerning, she says, is that there are no studies examining the potential risks of eating the placenta, which filters out toxins and pollutants during pregnancy to protect the developing fetus.


Tom Cruise

In 2006 Tom Cruise publicly criticized actress Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants to help with her postpartum depression. While Shields later said the actor came over to her house to apologize, Cruise’s rep told the Associated Press at that he had not changed his position on antidepressants.

While antidepressants are generally considered safe for most adults, the FDA lists a number of side effects.

Cruise is a Scientologist, and the group opposes the use of antidepressants and other aspects of mainstream psychiatric care.


Suzanne Somers

In her 2013 book “I’m Too Young for This!: The Natural Hormone Solution to Enjoy Perimenopause,” Suzanne Somers touted the benefits of bioidentical hormones – otherwise known as natural hormone therapy – as a safer alternative to ease symptoms of menopause that have fewer long-term risks and side effects than other hormone treatments. But experts quickly warned that while these hormones may be “natural” in origin, there’s no evidence that the ingredients are safer, let alone superior to other therapies on the market.


Dr. Mehmet Oz

Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” is proud of helping millions of viewers with their health concerns. But he came under fire at a Congressional hearing in 2014 for promoting the supposed fat-burning benefits of green coffee bean extract – a product accused by the Federal Trade Commission of making fraudulent claims. The company behind the green coffee bean study, meanwhile, had to pay $3.5 million dollars in a settlement.

Dr. Oz’s credibility was also hurt by a 2014 study finding that fewer than half of his on-air recommendations – just 46 percent – were backed up by medical evidence


Jessica Alba

To shed baby weight after giving birth, Jessica Alba said she wore a double corset to “retrain” her waist. While women have been attempting to make their wastes tinier by wearing corsets for centuries, the practice has been growing in popularity in the last year with celebs like Alba touting its benefits.

Waist trainers don’t change your actual body shape.


Alicia Silverstone

Another advocate of placenta eating and the anti-vaccination movement, actress Alicia Silverstone also wrote a parenting book last year with some very questionable advice. In “The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning,” Silverstone suggests a plant-based diet can help prevent miscarriages and stave off postpartum depression.


Alana Stewart

Actress Alana Stewart, the former wife of Rod Stewart, said in 2012 she’d used human-growth-hormone therapy to keep her hair from turning gray. But the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has cracked down on products making such unfounded claims, and the Mayo Clinic lists carpal tunnel syndrome, swelling in the arms and legs, joint and muscle pain, and for men, enlarged breast tissue, as possible side effects from the hormones.


Shailene Woodley

“Divergent” star Shailene Woodley says she eats clay to remove heavy metals from the body and recommends other women do the same. She also suggests getting a little sun on your vagina for some extra Vitamin D.


Miley Cyrus

In 2012, after receiving criticism that she was too thin, Miley Cyrus took to Twitter to announce that she has a gluten and lactose allergy. She went on to tweet that everyone should try to go gluten-free for a week, saying “The change in your skin, phyisical (sic) and mental health is amazing! U won’t go back!”

But doctors say that a gluten-free diet is only prescribed to people with celiac disease, a condition that causes the immune system to react to gluten in the body, causing damage to the lining of the intestines, along with uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. For people without the disease, foods that are gluten-free have no special health benefits, and some gluten-free snacks may actually contain more fat.


Katy Perry

In 2013, Katy Perry revealed that she takes 26 vitamins and supplements a day and even tweeted a photo of herself with all her capsules. But experts say routinely overloading on vitamins can have the opposite of the intended effect, and may lead to symptoms including nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, hair loss and fatigue.

A recent study also found that use of dietary supplements leads to more than 23,000 emergency room visits per year due to adverse reactions.


Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban, who has invested in four health care companies, tweeted (in tweets subsequently deleted) that people should get their blood tested four times a year if they can. Health experts pointed out the flaws in Cuban’s quarterly testing idea, saying that the more blood tests you receive, the greater the possibility of false reports, misdiagnosis, and false positives, not to mention the fact that many people simply can’t afford it.

Roger Moore

Former James Bond Roger Moore has declared that eating foie gras can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, calling the duck delicacy, “a tasty way of getting terminally ill.”  While the ethics of foie gras are certainly up for debate, there is no evidence that it causes such diseases.


Megan Fox

Megan Fox has claimed that swallowing vinegar will help you lose weight. “It just cleanses out your system entirely. 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,” the Transformers star said.  The body is, in fact, 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.


Good advice, education

Examples of celebrities using their platform for good:

Michael J. Fox’s battle with Parkinson’s disease, and his subsequent advocacy for research into the disorder, as a particularly noteworthy example.

Katie Couric, whose husband had colon cancer, had her own colonoscopy on TV.

The Marlboro Man, Wayne McLaren, became an anti-tobacco advocate after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Angelina Jolie, whose genetic makeup included a strong possibility of breast cancer, had a preventive double mastectomy.

A celebrity can have a positive impact.