EDMONTON—From the farmers’ markets in Edmonton to the back alleys of Hong Kong, Tim Caulfield is on a mission to figure out exactly why are people attracted to crazy therapies, detoxes and unorthodox technologies that promise quick, dramatic improvement to our health and beauty.
The health law professor at the University of Alberta experiments with organic food, age-defying products and weight-loss programs in his show called A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, which recently got picked up by streaming giant Netflix.
“We are really excited, and we hope it’s a reflection of people’s interest in these topics and the desire to know what’s going on,” Caulfield said.
The show originally aired on Vision TV in Canada and was picked up by BBC Earth after and has been distributed to over 60 countries around the world, although Caulfield said he is “really happy that it’s going to get broader distribution here in North America.”
The show was originally inspired from Caulfield’s book, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? in which he debunks celebrity health and wellness advice through science.
“That I think was the initial inspiration but then it took on its own shape,” he said.
In the show, Caulfield wanted to explore all the crazy and sometimes extreme remedies individuals try for the health and beauty and see what science actually says about those practices.
“We also want to get the perspective of the users, what’s attracting them to these therapies,” he said.
After going through a few of them himself he said he found the user’s perspective very interesting.
“It was a pretty positive experience. Even if I knew there wasn’t any science behind it, you can understand why people are attracted to this stuff,” he said.
“But at the same time we want to make sure this stays rooted in the science so I hope that the viewers feel like they get a balanced perspective but a perspective that is very much evidence-based.”
With researchers from the University of Alberta backing up the science, Caulfield travelled from Edmonton to other parts of the world to look into some of the most popular as well as obscure methods people are trying to “cheat death.”
“In this era of misinformation and twisted facts, we felt like a show like this was timely and there might be an appetite for it,” he said.
Although Caulfield had to do some crazy and bizarre things for the show, that included eating an orange peel from 1980, he says nothing beats his experience eating a snake’s gallbladder in Hong Kong, a clip that never made it to the final production of the episode.
“I thought we would go and it would be snake gallbladder soup but we show up to this place and there is a guy called the Snake King and he takes a live snake, cuts out the gallbladder and hands it to you to eat,” he recalled.
“And I ate it right on the spot. That was wild.”
When asked if he thought that was a safe thing to do, he answered with a laugh, “I don’t know if it’s safe, but I’m here now talking about it.”
Caulfield has made a name for himself by using science to debunk celebrity vampire facials for better skin and colon cleanses for better health on Twitter and in his award-winning books.
He says he realized that celebrity and pop culture has a huge impact on how people think about health.
“I’ve become very interested in different ways of engaging audiences, engaging the community, engaging the public in what I think have become increasingly important topics,” he said.
Although the filming of the show took place all over the world, the crew is primarily Canadian, with Brent Hodge, the show’s director, originally from Edmonton.
Season one of the show will be airing on Netflix sometime before Fall. Caulfield confirmed they have already shot season two and it will be airing on Vision TV in October.
Correction – July 30, 2018: This article was updated from a previous version that misstated that A User’s Guide to Cheating Death originally aired on Sky TV in the U.K. In fact, the show first aired on Vision TV in Canada.
By KASHMALA FIDA, StarMetro Edmonton, Sun., July 29, 2018