Detox? What a load of old goop!

I’ve occasionally heard people state an intention to abstain from alcohol for a month. I’ve done so myself more than once, though usually selecting February, for temporally obvious reasons. I mean, come on, January is too long! And if, because you feel compelled by tradition, you’ve given it a belting on New Year’s Eve, you’ll have entered this month loaded and still imbibing, compromising your faux-virtuousness from the off.

Even that basking shark-ed mouthpiece Farage, whose populism includes a trouser-dampening session in the company of a posh pair of puce Gogglebox-ers, can see that. After all, too much intake apparently yields confusion: he considers that rules on (potentially harmful to others) smoking in public are for flouting, whereas those on (harmless) breast-feeding are not; and the over-decibel-ed windbag recently declared he’d do a deal with the Devil to get what he wanted, and then even more recently ruled out any pact with Labour. (From which it might be deducted that the Tory Party is the Devil…).

But it is not a bad idea, following the over-hyped season of gluttony, platitudes and making an ass of oneself, to give the system a bit of respite. Which policy, however, presents a window of opportunity for those who posture as sages and paragons of virtue to market their ineffectual wares. Yes, it may not have escaped your notice that it is the time of year when those self-styled ‘nutritionists’ (a credential-ly dubious label that always rouses suspicion) and/or networking slaves and/or promoters of general quackery are ramping up their exploitation of your regretful over-indulgences and promising you absolution by… detox.

As ever, a(t least one) newspaper denotes front page space to a promoting celebrity, thus attending to the attention-seeking and indirectly endorsing quackery. So much for journalistic objectivity. John Bingham, Social and Religious Affairs Editor on The Telegraph, apparently convinced an editorial meeting that such material somehow merits front page space, presumably because the accompanying photo of a popular, personable actor attracts readers and/or lends appeal to other than the (largely Farage-seduced?) comb-over and blue-rinse set.

Now, I’m an admirer of Gwyneth Paltrow, based on her performances in a number of films. So, as Bingham’s article cites Paltrow’s lifestyle website Goop [sic], I perambulated over for a look. Well, it is certainly a very swanky looking place; very professionally maintained; very ‘convincing’ marketing (oh yes, marketing – there is plenty on sale there) pitched at the pre-convinced and the too-‘open-minded’ curious. With prominent announcement of ‘the annual GOOP DETOX’, replete with enticing colour photographs of… well, food. Predictably, there features the pseudoscientific tactic of roping in endorsement from some (book-promoting) ‘scientific’ expert. As I read Bruce Lourie’s responses to goop‘s un-forensic questions, I gather that what we need to do is, err… eat properly, drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. Brilliant! Though I see no endorsement of any particular ‘food’ listed in ‘the annual GOOP DETOX’. Nor – notably – any suggestion that such ‘food’ stuffs can precipitate ‘detox’. Rather bursting Gwyneth’s bubble, it is confirmed that detoxification is what the body does itself – very efficiently, thank you. Don’t take my word for it; read and decide for yourself whether Lourie specifically endorses or argues that any of Gwyneth’s recipes/ingredients in any way promote or enhance the body’s efficiency at eliminating ‘toxins’ from itself? Shrug And does he actually answer the question, ‘… were you able to scientifically prove that there are ways to help our bodies speed/facilitate detoxification?’ ? (Sorry, but I don’t think that drinking water and exercising qualifies as sufficient response here.) I can find no published reference for his ‘experiments’ in PubMed. And the statement, ‘Chelation is another proven detox technique… ‘ is dubious at best.

Back to goop‘s glossy detox page with its lovely colour photos of… food. Should we smell quackery at play? Well, ‘… think about kicking the week off with a colonic …’ is a pretty whiffy indicator. If you’re gullible enough to go that route, knock yourself out and stick candles in your ears and get yourself cupped while you’re at it. But there are pages and pages of the stuff, including vitamins & supplements galore, ‘self-help’ paraphernalia, Chinese medicine, contributions from pseudoscientific ‘authorities’, and all manner of New Age gobbledegoop. Occasionally dusted with fetching photos of Gwyneth, modelling various items for sale (though I wonder that she could do with eating a few cakes).

All very… privileged. But if you are reasonably healthy with sufficient means and nous to ingest a three-squares-a-day balanced diet including all the important food groups, are able to exercise and to moderate your intake of those things it’s fun to over-indulge in on occasion, consider whether you really need all those extra vitamins and supplements and fad juices and other snake oil paraphernalia. (And if you don’t have the means, well, you can’t afford the over-priced things anyhow!)

How did I get from Nigel Farage to Gwyneth Paltrow? Poles apart. Stick ’em in a room together – would make for an interesting dinner party.

Paltrow & Farage

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