Timothy Caulfield Writes New Book On Resisting Junk Science

'Advocate for evidence-based health policy' recently received honorary doctorate for his work

Helen Metella - 31 January 2020

Professor Timothy Caulfield, renowned internationally for publicizing what's false about scores of popular but unproven health practices, publishes his third book on the subject in April.

Relax, Dammit!, (Penguin Random House) is billed as "an entertaining and practical guide to getting through the day with less stress and better health." It stemmed, says Caulfield, from his observation of how much misinformation engulfs people daily.

"There is so much noise in popular culture right now, particularly in the realm of health," says Caulfield. "This is the age of misinformation. It is no wonder people feel stressed and are unsure about what they can do to live a healthy lifestyle."

This stress can lead us to make poor decisions about everything from the food we eat to which drugs physicians prescribe and even to how judges handle the sentencing of prisoners, says Caulfield.

"Indeed, decision fatigue can impact important decisions. It makes a difference what time of day a judge hears a case."

The book takes readers through a regular day and reveals that the many decisions we routinely make (believing them to be healthier or safer choices) are simply not borne out by good science.

For his dedication to righting the record as a health policy expert, last fall Caulfield received an honorary science degree for his work from Simon Fraser University.

The doctorate of science is the first honorary degree for Caulfield, who is the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and the research director of the Health Law Institute. While bestowing the award, the Vancouver university named him "one of Canada's best-known intellectuals and a passionate advocate for evidence-based health policy."

He has explained the facts opposing junk science in hundreds of easy-to-understand contributions to the popular press. He presents similar arguments in an entertaining fashion as the host and co-producer of the award winning Netflix documentary series, A User's Guide to Cheating Death, which debunks thinly supported health claims.

He is also the author of two national bestsellers, The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (Penguin 2012) and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash (Penguin 2015).

"The good news is I think people are taking this topic of health misinformation much more seriously now," he says. "The bad news is there's just so much of it."

"It's increasingly difficult to tease out what's real science and what's not. The World Health Organization recently said that the spread of health misinformation is one of the greatest threats to people's health in the areas of vaccines."

Caulfield's current research concerns the fascinating new discoveries about the gut microbiome and how they are being exploited to sell unproven therapies, and continuing work on the science of precision medicine.