As society tries to figure out how to improve health outcomes, the rise of celebrity culture and the power of social media aren’t helping, a researcher told participants at an event in Toronto on Thursday.

Speaking at a health and wellness event hosted by Accompass Inc. in downtown Toronto, Timothy Caulfield, Canada research chair in health law and policy and a professor at the University of Alberta, took particular aim at the impact of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, who has touted everything from vaginal steams to colon cleanses as ways to get healthy. “All of this is part of an industry — the massive wellness industry,” said Caulfield, who’s author of the book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?

Then there’s cryotherapy, which Caulfield described as using extreme cold to, among other things, burn 800 calories in three minutes. “I’m from Edmonton, Alberta. I get my cold for free,” said Caulfield, who called the calorie claims “impossible” and noted he had tried the treatment in Chicago.

Read: Assessing the impact of online therapy as digital health tools proliferate

During his presentation, Caulfield tackled everything from intravenous drips to the gluten-free fad. While there’s an obvious imperative to avoid gluten for those with conditions like celiac disease, Caufield suggested the trend has gone too far. Noting the importance of whole grains in diets, he cited gluten-free bubble-bath products as examples of going too far with the trend. “Even if you’re celiac, you don’t need that,” he said of the bath products.

Social media, he suggested, is a factor, particularly since many celebrities have such large followings on platforms such as Twitter. So what’s the solution? More critical thinking would help, he said, citing the need for people to be aware of conflicts of interest. Regulations to ensure truth in advertising and improved scientific literacy would also be beneficial, he suggested. “The other thing I think we need to do is we all need to call it bunk when it’s bunk,” he said, emphasizing not smoking, vigorous exercise, eating real food, weight management, prevention and sleep as the essential elements to leading a healthy lifestyle.

When it comes to addressing mental health, another speaker at the Accompass event emphasized the importance of making small but frequent changes in the workplace.

Read: Helping employees transition into the stress of fall

“It’s great if you bring mental-health training into your workplace,” said Sarah Hilton, founder of London, Ont.-based Stressed Out Solutions.

The training, she noted, “usually lasts between one hour and eight hours, maybe for your leaders a little longer. But one of the difficulties is mental health doesn’t go away in eight hours. Mental health keeps changing and changing and changing.”

Hilton’s motto — change small, change often — means that when dealing with mental health in the workplace, a one-time training session isn’t enough. She suggested employers should take regular steps to address the issue and provide employees with tools, such as stress balls and notepads they can put on their desks to write down how they’re feeling.

“Mental health plays a role in everything we do. Absolutely everything. And it’s showing up at work, where we spend most of our time. When was the last time you had a chemical spill, where you’ve had to use your conduct training expertise? Probably not very often, if at all. And yet, when does mental health show up at work? Every day.”

Read: Getting to know staff ‘one of the biggest things’ for addressing mental health

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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