In an interview with Goop.com, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle company, a former cable-television technician named Clint Ober explained the practice of “earthing,” or walking barefoot on the ground. What he seemed to draw from his experience in cable systems was that, not unlike live wires, humans’ electrical charges could be neutralized through contact with the earth. Doing so, he explained, “prevents inflammation-related health disorders”:
It’s intuitive that—like in a cable system—grounding would neutralize any charge in the body. After grounding myself, and a few friends who had arthritic-type health disorders, I became convinced that grounding could reduce chronic pain.
To help readers reap these supposed health benefits without having to touch their bare feet to the ground, the Goop article provides a link to bedsheets and mats that can be plugged into the grounding port of an electrical outlet. One queen-sized sheet goes for $200.
The post claims several people in the Goop “community”—including “GP” herself—swear by earthing for “everything from inflammation and arthritis to insomnia to depression.” But Truth in Advertising, a consumer-advocacy group, cited earthing in a database of 50-some instances in which Goop promoted unsubstantiated products or claims. Last month, Truth in Advertising urged two California district attorneys to investigate Goop and take “appropriate enforcement action.”
Yet by outward appearances, it’s still a very successful media company. Its June “In Goop Health” summit, crammed with crystals and aura photographers, sold out of its $1,500 tickets, and there are two more like it scheduled. Each month the site is read by 1.8 million people—people who have the very advertiser-pleasing characteristics of an average age of 34 and a household income in the six figures, according to Adweek. In April, Goop announced it was teaming up with Condé Nast, which publishes The New Yorker, Wired, and other prominent magazines, to create a quarterly print publication debuting this month. According to People magazine, in the inaugural issue Paltrow’s editor’s letter describes the joys of cleanses, bee-sting skin treatments, and, of course, barefoot strolls:
For me, when I take my shoes off and walk in the grass, it’s so healing. It’s hard to find scientific evidence for the idea that “I feel good.” But by trying, you get so much juice out of life.
(Goop did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. In a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter, Goop said, “while we believe that [Truth in Advertising]’s description of our interactions is misleading and their claims unsubstantiated and unfounded, we will continue to evaluate our products and our content and make those improvements that we believe are reasonable and necessary in the interests of our community of users.”)
Image: Richard Yaussi [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons