Celebrity health and wellness trends: Fact or fiction?

The Weekly asks the experts to weigh in on the various things celebs swear by; from lemon water to apitherapy.

The lifestyles of the rich and the famous are something most of us are fascinated by.

Personally, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never wondered what exact brand and shade of red lipstick Taylor Swift uses.

And I’ve definitely Googled ‘Jennifer Aniston workout routine’ before…

But I know I’m not alone.

Case in point, Gwyneth Paltrow. The seemingly ageless actress founded an entire wellness empire that’s now estimated to be worth AU$380 million. Surely it wouldn’t be worth that much if us mere mortals weren’t curious about what Gwyneth, 51, does to stay looking young and in shape.

Despite my fascination, however, I’m also becoming increasingly sceptical of the things celebrities say they do in the name of health.

I’ll use Gwyneth as an example again. Last year, she faced severe criticism last year, when she said she usually has “bone broth for lunch” during an appearance on the The Art of Being Well podcast.

Many condemned the actress for promoting unhealthy eating habits, citing that bone broth is not a full meal.

gwyneth paltrow

Sure, days later Gwyneth defended her comments and said, “It’s not meant to be advice for anybody else. It’s really just what has worked for me, and it’s been very powerful and very positive.

“This is not to say I eat this way all day, every day. And by the way, I eat far more than bone broth and vegetables.”

But this wasn’t the first time she’d come under fire for recommending something in the wellness space many professionals deemed unhealthy or unfounded. Gwyneth’s aforementioned wellness empire, Goop, previously claimed Yoni eggs – little eggs made of jade and designed to be inserted into the vagina – would “increase vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general”.

Multiple gynaecologists slammed Gwyneth and Goop alike saying there’s no way a jade egg could change an individual’s hormone balance but could, if left in for too long, lead to bacterial vaginosis or toxic shock syndrome.

Ultimately, in 2018, Goop was fined US$145,000 for “unsubstantiated” marketing claims. But Yoni eggs are still for sale via Goop; just with a different claim – “Yoni eggs harness the power of energy work, crystal healing, and a Kegel-like physical practice.”

To seperate celebrity fact from fiction; I got in touch with experts to understand whether the most popular celebrity health trends are actually beneficial or just straight up bollocks.

Lemon water

Multiple celebrities have gushed about lemon water. You know, water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice in it.

“Usually when I wake up, I’ll make my standard cup of hot water with a slice of lemon in there,” Jennifer Aniston once shared.

“[When] I wake up in the morning, I have 32 ounces of room temperature water with one lemon squeezed in, that like flushes everything out from the night,” Miranda Kerr revealed on the Skinny Confidential Him & Her podcast.

miranda kerr

But are there any actual benefits of lemon water?

“Yes and no,” says Isabelle Goodwin, Accredited Practising Dietitian at Nourish Avenue.

“There is some evidence to say that lemon has useful antioxidant properties, however this effect could be seen by adding lemon to any drink or food as a dressing. Antioxidants are helpful to reduce oxidation that can lead to poor heart health and some cancers, but they can be found in most fresh fruit and vegetables.

“Lemon and extracts of lemon may be helpful for its antimicrobial properties for specific ailments. There is also some evidence to suggest that lemon juice might reduce blood sugar spikes by contributing to the acidic environment in the mouth and delay starch digestion, however there are not many high quality human studies that support this from my knowledge and having extra acidity in the mouth might contribute to tooth decay over time,” Isabelle continues.

“The main benefit from drinking lemon water is likely that people adopting this habit are improving their hydration, rather than any specific effect of the lemon itself.”

Light-emitting diode [LED] facial masks

Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts and numerous other celebrities have posted pictures of themselves using LED facial masks on social media.

But do they work?

Skin and Dermal Therapist Isabella Loneragan says yes.

“Using an at-home LED mask for a few minutes a day does more than just look space-age cool; these nifty devices can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and leave skin healthier and glowing.

“[Plus,] using LED light therapy before applying skincare products can work to enhance their absorption into the skin, making skincare products more effective.”

Dr Tanya Unni, GP, Cosmetic Care Specialist and Founder of Dr Tanya Skincare, agrees.

“Infrared Light Therapy masks can contribute to a healthier looking complexion. In addition to these general benefits, the soothing warmth of the light contributes to facial muscle relaxation and overall stress relief.

“If you have a good quality skincare routine in place which includes an SPF 50+ sunscreen, infrared light therapy would be a complementary addition to your skincare and wellness routine.”

However, Dr Unni does advise to be vigilant when using an at-home LED mask and not to be disheartened if you don’t see results right away.

“These devices are generally designed with lower intensity and lower wavelengths to ensure safety for non-professional use. While they can be effective, you must follow the instructions carefully, and results may take longer compared to professional treatments.”

Ice baths

Professional athletes have used ice baths for decades but celebrities have recently jumped on the bandwagon too.

“Post show routine: ice bath for 5-10 min, hot bath for 20, then compression suit packed with ice packs for 20,” Lady Gaga once shared on Instagram.

Madonna also loves an ice bath post-show; she’s previously posted a video of her prepping an ice bath along with the caption, “With my usual ice bath for multiple injuries.”

celebrity health: lady gaga

So is there a proven benefit?

“Ice baths, or cryotherapy, can provide several advantages for those who dare to endure the cold temperature. They are known to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation, particularly after intense physical activity. The cold temperature constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which aids in the recovery process,” Dr Unni says.

“The cold exposure can also potentially stimulate the release of endorphins, which is why many individuals report feeling mentally alert and refreshed after an ice bath.”

However, Isabella says that facial ice baths – dunking your face into a bowl of ice cubes, typically referred to as skin icing and endorsed by the likes of Kate Moss and Bella Hadid – can be dangerous.

“Skin icing is overrated and just a short-term hack that lacks scientifically proven long-term benefits.

“Skin icing isn’t necessarily ‘bad’ for your skin and it does have suggested values, but as to whether it holds huge benefits for your skin, my answer would be no; its benefits certainly aren’t too significant in the long-term,” she continues.

“Also, and importantly, if it’s not done correctly – or if it’s done too often – it can actually be very dangerous.

“Essentially, it’s a form of ice therapy; almost an ice-based instant and quick facial with short-term effects that will mostly wear-off within hours; so, if you’re thinking of icing your skin, it’s important that you have reasonable expectations of the results,” Isabella explains.

“The basic premise of skin icing is that exposing your skin to an extremely cold temperature for a few minutes will apparently help with reducing puffiness, swelling, redness and bruising, as well as helping with tightening and decreasing oiliness. Skin icing is also said to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and some sources claim that it can reverse the ageing process but this is simply untrue.

celebrity health: jennifer aniston

“In fact, a 2021 paper by the World Journal of Clinical Cases found that some of these benefits are only supported by anecdotal evidence, and there’s no solid, definitive scientific research that indicates that skin icing can actually address conditions such as bruising.

“Furthermore, the research states that prolonged ice application can actually delay the start of healing and lengthen the recovery process.

“I strongly recommend against skin icing too often. It can cause vasoconstriction and lead to vasodilation because the extreme coldness can seal-up your vessels which then runs the risk of creating burst blood vessels on the face.”

Apitherapy AKA bee stings

It is absolutely wild that some celebrities have endorsed apitherapy. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s a treatment that involves being voluntarily stung by bees.

Princess Catherine’s flawless complexion is apparently due to bee venom facials.

And good old Gwyneth has also tried it.

“I’ve been stung by bees. It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy. People use it to get rid of inflammation and scarring. It’s actually pretty incredible if you research it. But, man, it’s painful,” she admitted to The New York Times.

Gerard Butler has had apitherapy done too.

During an appearance on Lorraine, he shared, “I had heard of this guy injecting bee venom, because apparently it has many anti-inflammatory compounds, So, I’m like, ‘Come to New Orleans where we’re filming.’ So, he gives me a shot, and I go, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ because it stings.”

celebrity health: princess catherine

The actor was then immediately rushed to hospital. But four days later Gerard tried apitherapy again.

“I decide to do it again because, I think, ‘Maybe I just took too much.’”

He was taken to hospital again… Therefore, I’m not too surprised when both Dr Unni and Isabella advise against apitherapy.

“The safety of apitherapy is debated, and intentional bee stings can pose risks, especially for those who may be unaware of a pre-existing allergy. While some claims include potential health benefits like reduced inflammation and pain relief, scientific evidence is limited and inconclusive,” Dr Unni explains.

“No, it’s not a treatment I’d typically recommend. It can be very dangerous; especially for those who are allergic to bee products,” Isabella adds.

“Specific to skin-health, honey can help to treat wounds when used topically, and certain methods of apitherapy have been shown to help treat jaundice but generally, I wouldn’t recommend being deliberately stung by a bee to benefit your dermal health.”

A ketogenic diet

The keto diet is something many celebrities swear by.

For instance, Halle Berry, 57, started following the keto diet in her early 20s after being diagnosed with diabetes.

“Today, eating keto is second nature to me. I feel incredible on the high-fat, moderate-protein, and very-low-carb plan (seriously, I couldn’t tell you the last time I even craved sweets) and wouldn’t go back to the sugar-eating ways of before my diabetes diagnosis for anything in the world,” the actress wrote in an article for Women’s Health.

celebrity health: halle berry

But should we all adapt keto into our lives?

Well, Dr Unni says there are benefits to the keto diet, but you should check in with your GP if you decide to try it.

“The ketogenic diet, which is characterised by low-carbohydrate and high-fat intake, has shown effectiveness in weight loss and improved blood sugar control as the body enters a state of ketosis where it burns fat for fuel.

“Although the keto diet can be suitable for certain individuals, long-term sustainability on a diet like this would require check-ins with your GP to ensure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs,” she says.

But Isabelle advises against trying keto, especially if you want to lose weight.

“The ketogenic diet was originally developed to support and treat epilepsy in children. Then the ketogenic diet, which restricts carbohydrates, was adopted as a way to lose weight.

“Although this diet can be helpful for short term weight loss, for long term health, unfortunately the ketogenic diet can cause more problems that it fixes for many people. The majority of those who try a ketogenic diet to lose weight will end up regaining this weight over time due to a range of factors,” she says.

“This includes it being hard to maintain the demands of the diet in social situations and the human body’s normal response to food restriction, which includes driving up food cravings and encouraging fat storage as a safety mechanism.

“The ketogenic diet can also be detrimental to blood sugar levels in some people and decrease the fibre content of your diet significantly. Overall, the ketogenic diet is not a healthy diet for long-term use. At the end of the day, the best diet is one you can maintain long term and enjoy! Getting support and advice from a dietitian can be very helpful for this.”

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