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Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?

By Loretta Marron

When celebrity culture and science clash.

Whether it be through modelling, music, movies or sports, award-winning University of Alberta-based academic, Professor of Health Law & Science Policy and a Canada Research Chair, Timothy Caulfield, loves celebrity culture. His book Is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything? is a journey unravelling the considerable influence of celebrities on what we think and on our resulting health and life choices.

In the first section of the book, we are introduced to the misconception that becoming a celebrity is achievable. The latter part challenges the myth that all celebrities are happy, healthy, wealthy people leading desirable lives.

Caulfield analyses and debunks a plethora of celebrity messages and promises – from treatment endorsements to career ambitions – which lead us to believe that following their advice would make us happy. In reality, this inevitably fails to do so - sometimes at considerable financial and emotional cost.

The book includes research backed by opinions from relevant academics and clinical experts, intermixed with extensive interviews with celebrities, young hopefuls and older "has-beens". He carefully separates science from pseudoscience, fact from fiction, myth from truth, eventually providing the reader with a summary of well-informed advice that could save them considerable angst, time and money.

As he did in his first book, The cure for everything, Caulfield immerses himself in his work, this time putting his own health and wellbeing at risk by trialling the celebrity-endorsed detox, diets and beauty routines.

The final chapter is appropriately titled "The Dream Crusher". Celebrity culture is not just an interest in celebrities, but reflects the complex interplay between social expectations and socioeconomic realities, while presenting an illusion that we could all be famous. While we should all aspire to achieve happy and fulfilled lives, it might be easier, in fact, to win a lottery than to become a successful celebrity; even then, the chances of remaining one are doubtful.

No matter how young, talented or beautiful you are, the American dream of going from rags to riches is little more than an unachievable illusion. Entertainers and artists, like the successful, beautiful, talented and 40+ year old Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities, do have a place in our lives, but in a time when celebrity “wisdom” often trumps science, when it comes to our health, we should not rely on them for truthful information on anything other than what they do professionally, and even that is distorted through the lenses of the media.

If you want to be a star (or want your child to be one), are thinking about plastic surgery, or you keep trying the latest celebrity-endorsed fad diet - or if you believe that celebrities have ideal lives - this book might change your mind. It is easy to read - both educational and entertaining, and will appeal to a wide audience.

Loretta Marron is CEO of Friends of Science in Medicine.