Stars who spout 'pseudo-science should check their facts first'Rather than trying to counter celebrities' claims, it might be more effective to educate the public to ignore what celebrities say. Surely people aren't that stupid to believe celebrities or that they are even intelligent.
By FIONA MACRAE - Last updated at 23:29pm on 2nd January 2008
When your name's Nicole Kidman or Gwyneth Paltrow, everyone wants to hear what you have to say.
But before holding forth on their favourite remedy, celebrities should get their facts straight, experts say.
The two Hollywood actresses, along with the TV presenter Gillian McKeith and fashion designer Stella McCartney, are singled out by a charity founded to increase the public's understanding of scientific issues.
Sense About Science warned: "A small group of people in the public eye promote pseudo-science without embarrassment and cannot be dissuaded from it."
Alice Tuff, who helped compile the list of celebrity pseudo- science, said: "Celebrity lifestyles and comments have a lot of social weight. Once in the public domain, it's almost impossible for, say, a toxicologist to eclipse a Stella McCartney or a Gwyneth Paltrow in order to give the public the facts. So the pressure must be there to get it right in the first place."
Miss Kidman, who appears in the Christmas blockbuster the Golden Compass, is criticised for promoting Nintendo's computer-based mental workout programme Dr Kawashima's Brain Training.
Endorsing the game, the 40-year-old star said: "I've quickly found that training my brain is a great way to keep my mind feeling young."
However, scientists say there is scant evidence for her claim.
Dr Jason Braithwaite, a cognitive neuroscientist at Birmingham University, said: "There is no conclusive evidence showing that the continued use of these devices is linked to any measurable changes and general improvements in cognition."
Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow has been singled out for her lack of knowledge of the genetics of cancer.
The actress, known to follow a wholegrain-rich, meat and caffeine-free macrobiotic diet, said recently: "I am convinced that by eating biological foods it is possible to avoid tumours."
But Professor Tim Hunt, of charity Cancer Research UK, said: "There is little evidence to implicate particular diets or particular foods with increased risk of cancer."
Also under the microscope is nutritionist Gillian McKeith. Referring to obesity among children, the presenter of Channel 4's You Are What You Eat, said: "If a quarter of kids are overweight now, then when they grow up and have kids, half of them will be overweight.
"And then if they have kids, everybody will be overweight."
But John Garrow, emeritus professor of medicine at the University of London, said: "Obesity is not mainly genetically determined, although it does 'run in families' because families share a similar environment.'
Stella McCartney is criticised for a magazine interview in which she said a chemical found in many skin creams is also found in anti-freeze. Scientists said the chemical, propylene glycol, is versatile and its use in cosmetics is not "scary".
Not all celebrities fared badly. The chef Jamie Oliver and the illusionist Derren Brown were praised for their responsible attitude to science.
What we really need are more celebrity scientists.
Thank goodness the weekend is here.