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  • Celebrities bad for your health

    PATIENTS are heavily influenced by celebrity role models when choosing medical treatments and therapies, prompting a warning from the Australian Medical Association.

    In a trend dubbed "celebrity-based medicine'', consumers are seeking out and copying their idols' favoured treatments.

    The most popular include homoeopathy, acupuncture and ayurveda - a holistic Indian branch of medicine.

    A study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, has singled out idol-imitation as a major factor in today's health market.

    Dr John Gullotta, from the Australian Medical Association, said patients constantly referred to treatments used by celebrities.

    "This happens in general practice all the time,'' he said. "People come in and say they have seen a celebrity or sportsman endorse a product and want it, too.

    Among the more "cutting edge'' treatments was actress Demi Moore's use of Klamath Lake algae - an edible green promoted as a superfood that researchers had never heard of before.
    Homoeopathy was popular, as was acupuncture and ayurvedic medicine, which includes herbs, massage and vegetarianism.

    Consumers did not seem to care whether treatments or therapies were proven to work or not, as long as their favourite celebrities were using them.

    "It's difficult to assess if the therapies are employed wisely by celebrities,'' the study states.
    "Nevertheless, it is remarkable that use of many of the modalities ... is not supported by data from clinical trials.

    "For example, there is reasonably convincing evidence that homeopathy, spiritual healing and dowsing (a form of spiritual intuition) have no effects beyond placebo.
     

    "On the other hand, there is some evidence that, for some conditions, acupuncture, the Atkins diet, the Alexander technique, herbalism and yoga are effective.''

    Study authors Dr Edzard Ernst and Dr Max Pittler, based at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth in Britain, concluded patients were unfazed by the "no evidence'' tag.

    "This verdict can easily be twisted to mean it might work, if only scientists were a little more open-minded to testing it,'' they said.

    The fact that many reports linking celebrities to medicines were based on hearsay was also found to be largely irrelevant in the decision-making process.

    Atkins-diet followers Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are credited with attracting millions of fans to the eating plan.

    Princess Diana also caused a surge in the number of people using reflexology and colonic irrigation.

    Researchers noticed some mainstream therapies that were absent from the celebrity list.
    "Perhaps chiropractic is currently so uncool no celebrity would want to be seen emerging from a chiropractor's office,'' the report suggested.

    Fashion played a larger role in complementary and alternative medicines than conventional treatments, the study found.

    In an unusual move, Kylie Minogue spoke out to strongly deny reports she had turned to alternative medicine during treatment for breast cancer in 2005.

    A statement from her record company said she did not want fellow cancer sufferers "to be misguided by the false stories regarding her condition and her choice of doctors''.


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