Sunday, January 29, 2012

Is Dr. Oz Doing More Harm Than Good?

It seems that hardly a day goes by that Dr. Oz doesn’t recommend or scare his audience into believing they need a new supplement. On one episode, he alarmed the audience with a statistic that as many as 30% of Americans may have a vitamin B12 deficiency. On a different show, he recommended that people take milk thistle for liver health, and on yet another show he suggested elderberry to treat the common cold. The list goes on and on.  Is his advice always helpful? I don’t think so.
There can be no question about Dr. Oz’s credentials.  He’s obviously a smart and well-trained physician. So why do I have a problem with his almost daily pronouncements?  The answer is because I think they are misguidedWhy?  Without knowledge of a patient’s medical history or current condition, there is no way any physician can provide sound medical or nutritional advice.  One size does not fit all.
There is no question that certain supplements provide critical benefits, which are otherwise difficult to secure in our typical everyday lives. For example, many people don’t get the sun exposure they need to naturally produce Vitamin D and therefore require supplementation.  Vegans may in fact develop Vitamin B12 deficiencies by relying on vegetables and fruits alone as a source of Vitamin B12.  For these people, a B12 supplement might be indicated. Omega three fatty acids confer so many unique benefits that if you are not eating enough fish, krill oil, or flax seed containing these healthy fats, it may be prudent to take a fish oil supplement.
But Dr. Oz’s recommendations, among them, milk thistle, probiotics, and multi-vitamins for everyone, are a mistake and a waste of money.  In fact, a tsunami of recent data suggests that multi-vitamins may in fact, be harmful.  In recent large studies published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the results are the same: multi-vitamins may do more harm than good. And there are many other recent large, quality studies that have reached the same conclusion. 
So if you want to watch Dr. Oz for the entertainment value of his show, that’s great. But under no circumstances take medical advice from anyone on TV, including Dr. Oz, and definitely don’t follow that advice without first consulting a physician or nurse who has intimate knowledge of your medical and surgical history, allergies and current medications, supplements and vitamins. Otherwise you may discover as many of my patients already have - the supplements you take may be worse for your health than the problems that prompted you to take them in the first place.


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