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Celebrities may be bad for your health

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Many of you will have read about the annual report issued by the charity Sense about science, which attempts to extinguish faddish myths from people in the media. Many of these claims promote theories, therapies and campaigns that have no scientific basis or make scientific sense.

The claims range from the relatively pointless (Olivia Newton-John told newspapers that she takes digestive enzymes with every meal and “Illumination”, a tonic containing South American plant extracts that helps boost the immune system), to the downright bizarre (Power Balance, a silicone bracelet embedded with a hologram, promises to improve strength, energy and flexibility. Celebrities sporting the bracelets have included David Beckham, Robert de Niro, Kate Middleton and even Spanish ministers of state).

But what really gets to me is when celebrities promote theories or therapies that, when followed, could potentially lead to a bad outcome or even death. For example, Alex Reid gave tips on how to prepare for a match as he promoted his new fight show. He said: “It’s actually very good for a man to have unprotected sex as long as he doesn’t ejaculate. A tablespoon of semen has your equivalent of steak eggs, lemons and oranges. I am reabsorbing it into my body and it makes me go raaaaahh.” When the rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV are on the increase in this country, the last thing we need is for a celebrity to promote unprotected sex.

But it does not stop there. In an interview in the Daily Telegraph, actress Julia Sawalha (who played Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous) said she doesn’t get inoculations or take antimalarial tablets when she goes abroad. Instead, she takes a homoeopathic alternative called “nosodes”, and claims she is the only one who never goes down with anything.

Jayne Lawrence, chief scientific advisor of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, responded, saying Ms Sawalha has been fortunate in not getting malaria on her travels because there is no active ingredient in homoeopathic treatments that would protect her against the disease.

Ms Sawalha’s claim is potentially dangerous and irresponsible. People who take her advice could end up catching malaria and even die. Look at Cheryl Cole, she took antimalarial tablets and still caught malaria. It is not something to be taken lightly.

Perhaps it’s time celebrities took some responsibility for the things they say. In other words, think before they speak! Just because something “works for them”, it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone or that it is safe. There is enough “bad science” out there; we do not need people in the media to help promote them.

Benedict Lam

Editor, Tomorrow’s Pharmacist

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