Sizing up the most fashionable address in New York City
The most fashionable address in New York is no longer Central Park West. It is 66 East 11th St., in Greenwich Village. The building doesn’t look like much from the outside; it was once a factory, then a parking garage. Now totally remodelled on the inside, it has been dubbed as “wellness real estate,” with a focus on the environment and the health of its residents.
A healthy wallet is definitely a requirement for moving into a home that claims to support cardiovascular, respiratory and immune health through a variety of amenities that range from showers infused with vitamin C to photo-catalytic coatings on surfaces designed to counter contamination by microbes. Prices of units range from about $14 to $15 million. But for that, you get to hobnob with your neighbours, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, which may be a plus, or Deepak Chopra, a definite minus.
Chopra is the New Age guru who has amassed a fortune with his confused and confusing books in which he rambles on nonsensically about how “we are thoughts that have learned how to create the physical machine, the body” and “there is no physical world, it’s all projection.”
He adds that “the whole thing is a Quantum Soup and reality exists because you agree to it.” Well, there is a reality Chopra seems to have agreed to. And that is to shill for Delos, the company that designed the multimillion-dollar abode, and which calls itself the “pioneer of Wellness Real Estate.”
The stunning habitat comes with a grab bag of science and nonsense. There is a special water-filtration system that “reduces disinfectant byproducts, chlorine, pesticides and some pharmaceutical and personal care products.” Nothing unusual here; many such systems based on activated carbon and ion-exchange resins are available for home use. The question then is why there is a need for “shower water infused with vitamin C which neutralizes chlorine to promote healthy hair and skin.” Hasn’t the filter system already removed the chlorine? Yes it has, otherwise it would be a pretty useless system.
So the only reason for the vitamin-C infusion is to get some mileage out of the common association of vitamin C with health. Vitamin C can indeed neutralize hypochlorous acid, which is the active form of chlorine in water, but it does not do so very efficiently. A gram of vitamin C would eliminate chlorine from about 400 litres of water, which is roughly equivalent to three to four showers. And there is no evidence that this would have any effect on hair or skin.
Installation of an air-purification system that filters pollen and other small particulate matter, and that uses ultraviolet light to kill microbes in the air ducts, does get marks. But there is less scientific support for incorporating substances, in all likelihood titanium dioxide, into counters and floors to destroy bacteria on contact.
This may be welcome in an operating theatre, but there is no need for such anti-bacterial warfare in a home. Disease-causing bacteria do not lurk around every corner and we happily coexist with the vast majority of bacteria. But generally bacteria are regarded as public enemy and antibacterial claims are good for marketing. Rinsing surfaces with soap and water serves us just fine.
Much is made of outfitting the rooms with just the right kind of lighting to prevent the body’s biological clock from going out of kilter. Here we do have some science. Light of any kind suppresses the secretion of melatonin, the so-called “Dracula hormone,” but blue wavelengths do it more effectively. Melatonin is produced during darkness and is associated with sleep. In the morning when we want to boost alertness, suppression of melatonin production is desirable, which is why Delos installed lights with a blue emphasis in showers and around bathroom mirrors. Hopefully people who like to take their showers at night can switch off these lights.
During the day, emphasis should be on wavelengths other than blue to prevent a big drop in melatonin, which has been associated with adverse health effects. Studies have linked working the night shift and exposure to bright light to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity, possibly due to low levels of melatonin. There have been suggestions that night workers should wear glasses that filter out blue wavelengths in order to boost their melatonin levels. It might be a good idea to have such filters on reading lamps that are used before falling asleep.
For enhanced sleep, total darkness is desirable to enhance melatonin production, and accordingly Delos has equipped windows with programmable blackout shades. Night lights are red since these wavelengths have the least power to suppress melatonin and shift circadian rhythms. Delos’s advertising correctly describes that lighting can affect health, but then goes on to say that protection is needed from electromagnetic fields that disrupt sleep. There is no evidence that EMF fields are harmful, nor that “electromagnetic field panels” are of any use.
Speaking of questionable benefits, is there data to back up claims that “impact absorbent floors improve lumbar support?” Noise reduction with soundproof Sheetrock sounds great, but the claim that noise decreases the production of telomerase, an enzyme associated with youth, is at best speculative. And how about the “reflexology path” in the bathroom, featuring an uneven floor with hard protrusions to stimulate acupressure points that are supposed to stimulate energy meridians in the body? Not exactly hard science.
If you are lacking the millions to purchase a Delos condo, you can still experience the “wellness” effects with a stay at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. A number of rooms have been outfitted with the same “health” amenities, including a special TV channel where holistic guru Deepak Chopra greets guests and offers advice about using acupuncture instead of Prozac and eating pink food for fewer wrinkles. That’s a reference to astaxanthin, a carotenoid that is responsible for the pink colour of salmon. Astaxanthin may actually offer some protection against sun-induced skin damage, but only when taken in supplement form.
Chopra goes on to inform the lucky guests that they will be experiencing “the next frontier in well-being” and an environment that “basically allows your body to self-regulate.” I think just the prospect of turning on the TV and possibly seeing Chopra mutter about “quantum consciousness” would keep me from forking out the surcharge for a wellness room at the MGM. It would make me feel unwell.