In the new book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? (Penguin, $32), Canadian health science expert Timothy Caulfield auditions for American Idol, abides by a strict cleansing diet and signs up with a modelling agency, all to debunk the the messages celebrity culture feeds us. Here are seven celebrity-driven myths he thinks we should consciously uncouple from:
1. “My colon cleanse worked wonders!”
Three days into Gwyneth Paltrow’s three-week Clean Cleanse—no dairy, beef, pork, gluten, sugar, eggs, coffee or alcohol—his family is “ready to cleanse [him] from their lives”: he’s hangry, and his breath stinks. After three weeks, doctors find the bacteria in his colon are the same, and he may have lost nine pounds—“Starvation will do that to you”—but he soon gains it back. According to Caulfield’s research, detoxing is unnecessary—we have kidneys and livers, after all.
2. “Gluten is the devil.”
Caulfield recalls a scene from This Is the End in which Seth Rogen’s character says, “Whenever you feel shitty, that’s because of gluten.” He couldn’t tell you why—just that gluten is his enemy. Jenny McCarthy claims it exacerbates the symptoms of autism, Miley and Gwyneth think it adds belly fat, and Bill Clinton says it puts stress on the heart, but Caulfield says there’s no credible evidence to suggest banishing the protein is healthy, celiac disease aside.
3. “Organic is always better.”
Gwyneth loves eating organic. But again, Caulfield found no indication that organic food is more nutritious than its counterparts. Some even contains synthetic pesticide residue. And if you think it’s necessarily good for the local economy, did you know Kellogg and PepsiCo own a bunch of organic farms?
4. “I lost 10 pounds in a week—and kept it off.”
When stars like Oprah, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Hudson gush about their weight loss, we often assume it’s the result of a healthy eating plan, but often the secret is a crash diet—and that kind of slim-down is impossible to sustain. You’d have to stick to the diet that got you there, and let’s be real—who could live out their days on juice alone?
5. “I know the secret to eternal youth.”
Aging strikes such fear in celebs’ hearts they’ll let snails crawl across their faces—that’s seriously a thing, priced at $240, and Katie Holmes allegedly swears by it. According to Caulfield, though, not much can really make you look younger—even his fancy SoHo spa facial à la Mila Kunis. There are ways to prevent signs of aging, though: don’t smoke, wear sunscreen, and get lots of sleep.
6. “You’ll be happier if you look like me.”
J. Lo’s butt, Kate Middleton’s nose and even Michelle Obama’s arms have inspired many to go under the knife. What Caulfield found is that post-surgery satisfaction is not always long-term, and it can negatively affect your health. Getting breast implants, for example, can result in ruptures, deflation, scarring and pain. Also, trends change: who knows how long the big-butt obsession will last?
7. “You can be famous, too.”
Caulfield’s American Idol audition inspires him to determine some dream-crushing odds: only 0.047 percent of aspiring musicians have a shot at a sustainable career. Also, the average actor has a one in 1,505,000 chance of becoming a star; they’re more likely to be killed by an asteroid. (And no, Caulfield didn’t get to the next round of Idol. But he was on TV for half a second.)