A Damning Diagnosis on Health Styles of the Rich and Famous

The London-based insurance group, Aviva, recently published the results of polling 200 U.K. general practitioners (GPs) about the effectiveness of popular alternative medicine treatments including detox diets and colonic irrigation. They also surveyed women regarding how celebrity “health styles” influenced women’s health behaviors.

GPs, doctors who provide primary care and specialize in family medicine, slammed the “health-styles” of the rich and famous – warning that UK women are wasting money and potentially risking their health following celebrity health fads like cupping, colonic irrigation or extreme detoxes.

The Aviva “Health Hoaxes” report, reveals that more than three quarters (79%) of women use alternative health treatments favored by celebrities – Gwyneth Paltrow, Alesha Dixon and Cheryl Cole have the “health-styles” they most admire.

Now, GPs have named and shamed the 10 most useless alternative “health” trends used by celebrities and their fans and, in a damning diagnosis, declared many a waste of money (92%) and with no medical value (93%).

Cupping therapy, used by Paltrow, tops the list of “health hoaxes”, which also includes vitamin B12 injections – said to be used by Madonna – extreme yoga, rumored to be favored by Sadie Frost, and reflexology and macrobiotic diets.

Aviva also discovered that to try each treatment on the GPs’ list could cost women more than £800 on average – with upgrades to practitioners used by the celebs themselves seeing the costs running to thousands. (Note: at the current exchange rate, “>£800 equals about $1,335 USD.)

GPs have issued a stark warning that celebrities are having a dangerous level of influence over women’s health choices (84%) and that celebrity endorsement of unproven health treatments could be putting the public at risk (93%):

  • 94% of women believe celebrities pay for the very best and most effective treatments
  • 32% will try a health fad simply because a celebrity has used it
  • 70% would try alternative treatments rather than visit their doctor

Dr. Douglas Wright, principal clinical consultant at Aviva UK Health, said:  “At Aviva we understand that people like to deal with their own wellbeing in a number of ways, but too many women are wasting money following ‘health’ fads that have little effect – just because it’s expensive, or rumored to be a celebrity favorite, is not an automatic guarantee that a treatment will work.

“What’s more worrying is that some women are opting for treatment trends rather than seeking medical advice – they might not be fashionable but tried and tested health routes are far safer and more beneficial.”

The Aviva research also found almost half (46%) of women saying they’ve become more experimental in the last five years with their health treatments, with 54% following celebrity trends in magazines.

Dr Wright adds: “Although women seem happy to spend money on celebrity health trends, our consumer research showed that over 60% of people would be worried about their finances if their child or partner required medical attention.

The top 10 least effective alternative treatments, according to the 200 GPs polled, are (average cost per treatment):

Cupping (£56 or $93) Colonic Irrigation (£78 or $130)
Food intolerance testing (£137 or $229) Detoxing (£112 or $187)
Macrobiotic diet (£83 or $138) Aromatherapy (£59 or $98)
Reflexology (£56 or $93) Vitamin B12 injections (£60 or $100)
Extreme yoga (£10 or $17) Overnight health farm stay (£185 or $309)

Opting for the practitioners said to treat celebrities could see costs soaring. For example, a consultation with holistic doctor Nishi Joshi (rumored to have given Kate Moss acupuncture) starts at £240 ($400) with subsequent sessions at £120 ($200).

And the first meeting with nutritionist Ian Marber, whose celebrity clients are said to include leading models and Leona Lewis, costs £125 ($208), after which the cost per session is £95 ($158).

The UK’s most admired celebrity “health-styles”:

1. Gwyneth Paltrow 6. Dannii Minogue
2. Cheryl Cole 7. Alesha Dixon
3. Madonna 8. Lily Allen
4. Holly Willoughby 9. Victoria Beckham
5. Kelly Brook 10. Katie Price

Results of this study are reproduced here with permission of the Aviva group.

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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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