Shilpa Shetty and other celebrity quacks

Shilpa Shetty claims that use of fizzy drinks causes wrinkles but the fact is that the amount of the gas in soft drinks is dwarfed by levels naturally produced by the body. In any case, scientists cannot see how it would age the skin. This and other such theories, therapies and campaigns (see below) that make no scientific sense are often promoted by celebrities. For the past four years Sense about Science, a UK-based charity organisation, is on a mission to correct these influential people.

Their motto is simple “before making scientific claims, check your facts – all it takes is a phone call”. They provide a free service to address the concerns of the common man by connecting them with scientists. The main message from 2009 is that nutrition is neither cure nor cause of everything. It springs from the claims made by Roger Moore about foie gras causing Alzheimer’s disease and Heather Mills claim that meat gives you ‘the illness you die of’.

Another common message from the organisation is that, everything is made of chemicals so nothing is ‘chemical-free’ and the effect of the chemical depends on the dose. Prominent examples that lead to this message are those of television presenter Denise Van Outen endorsed a ‘chemical-free’ deodorant and Atomic Kitten’s singer Natasha Hamilton chemicals from deodorants causing breast cancer.

Claims and Facts:

Shilpa Shetty, Bollywood actress “I avoid carbonated drinks — they sap all the oxygen from your body and make your skin wrinkly and dehydrated” Professor Ron Maughan, physiologist, Loughborough University: “Carbonated drinks have no effect on oxygen levels in the body. At rest, the body is constantly producing carbon dioxide and this amount increases during exercise. By comparison, the amount from a fizzy drink is trivial.”

Heather Mills, former model “[Meat] sits in your colon for 40 years and eventually gives you the illness you die of. And that is a fact.” Melita Gordon, gastroenterologist at the University of Liverpool: “Meat proteins, like all other proteins, are digested by enzymes, and absorbed in the small bowel before they ever reach the colon. Any indigestible matter is … expelled”

Roger Moore, actor “There are even surveys suggesting that eating foie gras can lead to Alzheimer’s, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. In short, eating foie gras is a tasty way of getting terminally ill.” Dr Stuart Rulten, molecular biologist, University of Sussex: “There is no scientific evidence that eating foie gras will directly cause Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes or arthritis.”

Antony Worrall Thompson, chef “Locally produced food is better for your health because the ingredients are far more nutritious than something that has been shipped from thousands of miles away.” Dr Mark Reuter, molecular microbiologist, Institute of Food Research: “The nutritional benefits of food depend on the ingredients, how they have been stored, prepared and cooked, not the distance travelled.”

Gwyneth Paltrow, actress “When I’d read about what pesticides do to small animals, I thought, Why would I expose my child to that?” Professor Alan Boobis, toxicologist, Imperial College London: “Animals are exposed to doses substantially greater than those to which consumers will ever be exposed. If studies produce doubt about the safety of a pesticide, it is not approved for use.”

Fergie from Black Eyed Peas “I do vinegar shots. It has to be organic apple cider, unfiltered. Two tablespoons. For some reason I’ve noticed a difference on my stomach.” Lucy Jones, a dietician at the Whittington NHS Trust: “As attractive as it sounds, there’s no magic pill, lotion or potion for a quick fix to weight loss. 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.”

Suzanne Somers, actress claims chemotherapy helped to kill cancer sufferer Patrick Swayze “[They] put poison in his body … Why couldn’t they have built him up nutritionally and gotten rid of the toxins?” Marianne Baker, of Cancer Research UK: “Chemotherapy is poison, it must be in order to kill cancer cells. The drug doses are optimised so that they target the cancerous cells but are flushed out before damaging most healthy cells.”

Denise Van Outen, entertainer on a new deodorant “free from harmful chemicals, aluminium and parabens, which have been linked to breast cancer”. Natasha Hamilton, former pop singer: “I was unaware of the dangerous chemicals antiperspirants contain which have been linked to breast cancer” Gary Moss, pharmaceutical scientist at the University of Keele: “Research has also shown that it is unlikely that these products would even enter the body, as the molecules are too large to reach the bloodstream.”

Annabel Croft, TV presenter on treating her daughter for food poisoning “I gave her arsenicum album [a homoeopathic product derived from arsenic], which worked very quickly. She went from throwing up all night to dancing at the party.” Dr Keith Hopcroft, GP: “Food poisoning can clear up quite quickly in some cases just with clear fluids.”

Robin Van Persie, footballer on treatment for his ankle injury “She is vague about her methods but I know she massages you using fluid from a placenta. I am going to try it. It cannot hurt and, if it helps, it helps.” Professor Greg Whyte, sports scientist, Liverpool John Moores University: “Any benefits from the placenta treatment would more likely be due to the massage.”