'Waste of time and money' - GPs deliver damming diagnosis on fab health-styles of the rich and famous

Article date: 11 November 2009

  • Celeb health trends for cupping, colonics and detoxes slammed  

GPs have today slammed the "health-styles" of the rich and famous - warning that UK women are wasting money and potentially risking their health following celebrity health fads like cupping, colonic irrigation or extreme detoxes.

The Aviva “Health Hoaxes” report, reveals that more than three quarters (79%) of women use alternative health treatments favoured by celebrities - Gwyneth Paltrow, Alesha Dixon and Cheryl Cole have the "health-styles" they most admire.

Now, GPs have named and shamed the 10 most useless alternative "health" trends used by celebrities and their fans and, in a damning diagnosis, declared many a waste of money (92%) and with no medical value (93%).

Cupping therapy, used by Paltrow, tops the list of "health hoaxes", which also includes vitamin B12 injections - said to be used by Madonna - extreme yoga, rumoured to be favoured by Sadie Frost, and reflexology and macrobiotic diets.

The research has been conducted to support Aviva’s My Health Cash Plan, a new scheme which allows individuals to choose their level of cover to protect themselves and their families.

Aviva also discovered that to try each treatment on the GPs’ list could cost women more than £800* on average – with upgrades to practitioners used by the celebs themselves seeing the costs running to thousands.

GPs have issued a stark warning that celebrities are having a dangerous level of influence over women’s health choices (84%) and that celebrity endorsement of unproven health treatments could be putting the public at risk (93%):

  • Nine in 10 (94%) women believe celebrities pay for the very best and most effective treatments
  • A third (32%) will try a health fad simply because a celebrity has used it
  • Seven in 10 (70%) would try alternative treatments rather than visit their doctor.

Dr Douglas Wright, principal clinical consultant at Aviva UK Health, said:  “At Aviva we understand that people like to deal with their own wellbeing in a number of ways, but too many women are wasting money following ‘health’ fads that have little effect – just because it’s expensive, or rumoured to be a celebrity favourite, is not an automatic guarantee that a treatment will work.

“What’s more worrying is that some women are opting for treatment trends rather than seeking medical advice – they might not be fashionable but tried and tested health routes are far safer and more beneficial.”

The Aviva research also found almost half (46%) of women saying they’ve become more experimental in the last five years with their health treatments, with 54% following celebrity trends in magazines.

Dr Wright adds: “Although women seem happy to spend money on celebrity health trends, our consumer research showed that over 60% of people would be worried about their finances if their child or partner required medical attention.** This, together with our market research highlighted the increased need for low cost health benefits that complement the services offered by the NHS.

“We have developed our flexible My Health Cash Plan product to offer people peace of mind and meet this need.” 

* The top 10 least effective alternative treatments, according to the 200 GPs polled, are (average cost per treatment):

  1. Cupping (£56)
  2. Colonic Irrigation (£78) 
  3. Food intolerance testing (£137) 
  4. Detoxing (£112)
  5. Macrobiotic diet (£83)
  6. Aromatherapy (£59)
  7. Reflexology (£56)
  8. Vitamin B12 injections (£60)
  9. Extreme yoga (£10)
  10. Overnight health farm stay (£185).

Opting for the practitioners said to treat celebrities could see costs soaring. For example, a consultation with holistic doctor Nishi Joshi (rumoured to have given Kate Moss acupuncture) starts at £240 with subsequent sessions at £120.

And the first meeting with nutritionist Ian Marber, whose celebrity clients are said to include leading models and Leona Lewis, costs £125, after which the cost per session is £95.

The UK’s most admired celebrity "health-styles":

  1. Gwyneth Paltrow
  2. Cheryl Cole
  3. Madonna
  4. Holly Willoughby
  5. Kelly Brook
  6. Dannii Minogue
  7. Alesha Dixon
  8. Lily Allen
  9. Victoria Beckham 
  10. Katie Price.


* Based on a typical cost per session/treatment.

** Aviva commissioned Redshift to conduct research amongst over 1,000 full-time UK workers in June 2009.

For further information, contact:

Lexis PR
David Lucas 
Telephone: 020 7908 6422 
E-mail: dlucas@lexispr.com

Sonia Clarke 
Telephone: 020 7908 6570 
E-mail: sclarke@lexispr.com

Aviva UK Health
Amber Scott 
Telephone: 023 8035 9383 
E-mail: amber.chable@aviva.co.uk

Notes to editors:

About the research
Aviva UK Health commissioned:

  • Medeconnect to conduct research amongst over 200 practicing UK GPs in September 2009
  • Redshift to conduct research amongst over 1,000 British women aged 18 to 45 in September 2009.

About My Health Cash Plan
My Health Cash Plan is one of the most flexible, cost effective Cash Plan products on the market. It is designed to help customers manage every day health expenses personal to them. This includes dental and optical treatment, health screening and physiotherapy. 

My Health Cash Plan offers re-imbursement towards:

  • Dental and Optical Benefit
  • Therapies including physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture
  • Prescriptions and GP charges
  • Health Screens
  • A Baby bonus
  • 24 hour GP and Stress Counselling Helplines
  • Gym membership discounts.

In addition to this, customers can personalise their cover by choosing from the following options:

Options to increase cover

  • Increased re-imbursement
  • Hospital extras including in-patient and day-patient cash benefits, x-rays and scans as a private patient, specialist second opinion, child support cash benefit
  •  Health Enhance – re-imbursement towards chiropody, podiatry, dietician, allergy testing.

Options to decrease cover

  • Reduced re-imbursement
  • Dental and optical cover only.

Further details can be found on www.aviva.co.uk/health

Health and Wellbeing from Aviva
Established in 1990 as the healthcare arm of Norwich Union, Norwich Union Healthcare was re-branded to Aviva in 2009. We provide a range of private medical insurance, income protection, occupational health and group life products and services that cover over 2,400,000 lives. We are one of the largest providers of income protection, group life and private medical insurance in the UK.

Aviva UK Occupational Health provides occupational health solutions and services to a wide range of industry sectors. By utilising their large fleet of purpose built mobile clinics and approved medical centres, staffed by a team of experienced occupational physicians and nursing staff, the services are designed to meet the individual needs of clients.

Aviva Health UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and is a member of the Association of British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Aviva’s news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva’s internet press centre at www.aviva.com/media.

About Aviva
Aviva, the international savings, investments and insurance group, is the world’s fifth largest insurance group, serving 50 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. 

In the UK, Aviva is a leading provider of life, pensions, investment, general insurance and health products to more than 20 million customers. Aviva also provides roadside assistance through the RAC.  Products are distributed through a number of channels including IFAs, brokers, corporate partners and direct to customers via the internet.

Aviva's UK Insurance business has a market share of around 15%, making it the largest general insurer in the UK. The business is focused on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

Aviva's life and pensions business in the UK has a total market share of 12% and a top three position in its key markets of savings, protection, and annuities.

Aviva’s UK Health business covers over 2,400,000 lives and continues to organically grow year on year. It has a top four market position in all its key markets, private health insurance, income protection and group risk.

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