Between the Pages: Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?

Timothy Caulfield seems like the type of person that you would want as your friend. Unless you are a colon cleansing, dream pursuing, celebrity adoring kind of person. Then he might come across as a bit of a “patronizing know-it-all jerk” (his words, not mine).

In his latest book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?, Caulfield looks at the messages spewed out by celebrity culture and how those messages stack up against scientific evidence. Spoiler alert: the answer to the book’s title question is an unequivocal yes.

Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash. By Timothy Caulfield (Source)
Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash. By Timothy Caulfield (Source)

The book starts by examining the vast array of health and beauty treatments inspired and endorsed by celebrities, including the Clean Cleanse made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow on her lifestyle website Goop. One of my favourite parts of the book is when Caulfield himself becomes a test subject and tries out the cleanses, spa treatments, and skin-care regimes that are supposed to make him healthier, slimmer and more beautiful. The results? He lost weight (but gained it back as soon as he started eating real food) and his skin was no better off after nine months of using high-end beauty products.  Continue reading

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Between the Pages: Missing Microbes

Welcome to the first instalment of Between the Pages, where I read and review books about science. 

Missing Microbes:  How the overuse of antibiotics is fueling our modern plagues. By Martin J. Blaser, MD. (HarperCollins)
Missing Microbes: How the overuse of antibiotics is fueling our modern plagues. By Martin J. Blaser, MD. (Source)

If science was Hollywood, the microbiome would be its new It Girl. The paparazzi report on its every move to see which new disease or condition it will be associated with next. Fans clamor to buy the newest supplement that promises to restore your microbiome to a “healthy” state.

Feeling a bit late to the party? Let’s bring you up to speed. Simply put, the human microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that share our body. These include the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live on our skin, in our mouths and digestive tracts, and in all our bodies’ little nooks and crannies. Even though they are microscopic in size, their numbers are daunting: there are 10 microbial cells for every human cell in our body! Most of these microorganisms are beneficial to us. They help us digest food and extract nutrients that we wouldn’t be able to get on our own. They strengthen our immune system so that it can better recognize and fight off invading pathogens. They prevent harmful microbes from taking hold in our bodies by depriving them of important nutrients. So, that’s great! Three cheers for our microbiome!

But what happens when our microbiome changes and the balance of species is shifted? As Dr. Martin Blaser argues in his book Missing Microbes, that’s when things start to go wrong. Continue reading