The chances are that you turn to this part of the newspaper in search of some reliable tools for optimizing your health. The chances are that you periodically visit a doctor for the same reason.
Alas, what you seek cannot be found in either place, not if it’s certitude you’re after. Whether you are healthy, moribund or traversing the stages of decrepitude in between, every morsel of medical advice you receive is pure conjecture — educated guesswork perhaps, but guesswork nonetheless. Your health care provider and your favorite columnist are both mere croupiers, enablers for your health gambling habit.
Staying well is all about probability and risk. So is the interpretation of medical tests, and so are all treatments for all illnesses, dire and trivial alike. Health has nothing in common with the laws of physics and everything in common with lottery cards, mutual funds and tomorrow’s weather forecast.
Thus, no matter how many vitamin-based, colon-cleansing, fat-busting diet and exercise books show up in 2013, the most important health book of the year is likely to remain Charles Wheelan’s sparkling and intensely readable “Naked Statistics,” even though it’s not primarily about health.