Why Do We Trust Celebs for Health Advice?

 

Would you go see a used car salesman when you want a diagnosis for a persistent cough? What about seeing an electrician when you have a new mole you want to get checked out?

The answer to both of those questions is obviously "NO." Used car salesmen and electricians may be good at their professions, but they aren't qualified to give medical advice any more than a doctor is qualified to wire your house for surround sound. Even if you were able to find someone from a different profession willing to give you a diagnosis, it would be all but worthless.

Why, then, are people so willing to run out and shell out big bucks for the latest fad diet or health trend simply because they heard Madonna or Angelina Jolie used it to treat a skin condition or lose weight?

 

"Expert" Opinions

Celebrities are larger than life and people tend to associate false attributes to them. Since they're rich, beautiful and famous, they're placed on a pedestal high above the sweaty masses. They appear to be healthier, happier and in better shape than the average person, so the assumption is made that they hold the key to everlasting beauty and good health.

The fact of the matter is celebrities are rarely experts in the products they endorse and there's a pretty good chance they don't use them at all.

By definition, celebrities are newsworthy, and the products and health trends they endorse tend to get a lot of attention (South Beach Diet, anyone?), but the mere fact that a celebrity endorses something doesn't by any means make their endorsement an "expert" opinion. All it usually means is the company offering the product or pushing the diet trend offered them enough money to get them to stand in front of a camera and announce their love for it.

Advocacy Campaigns

There is one realm in health and fitness where celebrities can be of some value.

Celebrities who feel strongly about a cause or who have a certain disease often step into the limelight as awareness spokespeople, calling attention to that particular cause or disease. Nobody would argue that Michael J. Fox isn't sincere in his ads for Parkinson Disease or that Magic Johnson shouldn't speak out about AIDS awareness.

Calling attention to the fact that a celebrity has a disease often goes a long way toward bringing that disease into the mainstream and knowing the signs and symptoms of a disease may save lives and drive the push for funding and further research into the disease.

Celebrity Endorsements

On the flip side of the coin are celebrity endorsements, which are paid advertisements. Take any celebrity endorsement of a product or diet trend with a grain of salt, as there's almost always money changing hands behind the scenes.

Celebrities are often paid to endorse certain drug companies, you begin to see the hidden dangers behind certain endorsements. Should a celebrity be allowed to push a drug they've never used for a disease they've never had? It's perfectly legal, but skirts the boundaries of morality and good taste.

Patients may be led to believe a drug is a good choice for treatment because their favorite celebrity endorsed it, without ever realizing the celebrity has never taken that drug. This could lead the patient to pick a certain medication or diet, without carefully considering other potentially safer choices.

Blurred Lines

The lines are often blurred between paid celebrity endorsements of products and actual awareness campaigns. The next time you see a celebrity on a commercial touting a cause or a disease, ask yourself whether it's a real awareness campaign or a thinly-veiled product advertisement. If they name a specific product or pharmaceutical company, there's a strong chance they've been paid big bucks to drop that name.

It's one thing to be a spokesperson for a cause, but where do you draw the line between promoting public awareness and becoming a company shill? For many, that line depends on how big the paycheck is.

Don't Believe Everything You Hear

Take everything you hear with a grain of salt. The next time you see a celebrity shamelessly endorsing a product, realize that it's a paid endorsement. The product may be a decent product, but don't let the celebrity endorsement be the sole reason you purchase the product.

Taking health advice from a celebrity is like pulling up the McDonald's drive-through and asking the person working the window to prescribe you something for your aching joints. Leave the health advice to the real experts and forget about which celebrity is using what product.