Thursday, February 9, 2012

Anatomy 101: Dissecting the Dr. Oz Show - Thursday February 9, 2011

As Shakespeare once wrote in Hamlet, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." That phrase has come to mean that there is something fishy going on.

Today, one of my patients came in complaining of hypoglycemia, which means low blood sugar. As part of her work-up, I asked her to bring in all the supplements she was taking.  I was awestruck by the number of different pills she was consuming including some I never knew existed. For each pill, I questioned what had led to her taking the pill. Apparently, many of the pills originated with articles she had read in the Life Extension magazine. For the record, I don't think much of the Life Extension Foundation, its magazine, or the products it peddles.

I say this because I have interviewed employees of the foundation who have described a culture of pushing unnecessary pills on unwary customers and because I get their magazine and have read several articles in it a few times. Every article seems to be followed two pages later by, surprise, the product described in the article.  Not one of the products I have read that was recommended in the magazine has been subjected to a randomized controlled double-blind human study, the gold standard of medical research.

Please forgive my obvious ignorance, but today's patient introduced me to Bilberry extract, also known as Vaccinium myrtillus.  My new patient takes this extract because of an article she read in the Life Extension magazine.  Recently, I also read an article written by Life Extension praising Dr. Oz. Then today, Dr. Oz recommends Bilberry extract as his bonus recommendation.  In fact, as you know, he is constantly recommending one supplement pill or another. I am often at a loss why he does so and today a theory came to mind that perhaps he has some financial or other relationship with Life Extension. Of course, its only a theory, but either way it makes me mighty suspicious of this coincidence.

Regardless, I advised my patient to discontinue almost all of her supplements, particularly the ones advised by Life Extension as I could not find any scientific corroboration for the uses she said Life Extension had specified. I gave her my cellphone number and asked her to call me after a week of reduced supplement use to see how she was doing.

Now let's get back to today's Dr. Oz show. Dr. Oz started the show with what I consider to be a bizarre statement. "Doctors have been asking for ages does the fountain of youth exist," he said.  Really? Which doctors? Doctors who are scientifically grounded have no reason to ask such a question as we all know a fountain of youth is a thing of legends, a myth, a veritable fantasy. A curious statement from a trained physician.

Nevertheless, today's guest was Montel Williams, the TV personality whom Dr. Oz presented with the question if Mr. Williams had discovered the fantastical fountain of youth.  For one brief moment, I felt exhilaration when Mr. Williams pronounced that people should stop looking for the fountain of youth in a pill. But of course, shortly thereafter, he presented multiple pills and extracts that presumably bestow great health advantages on those who consume them. These included chlorophyll, B12 mega-doses through injection, three root tea (ashwagandha, rhodiola, and schisandra,) and hops extract. Per the database, none of these products have conclusive scientific evidence in favor for the prescribed uses. Nor for that matter does the colloidal silver spray advocated by Dr. Oz for cold symptoms. By the way its odd how he often states that he uses many of the different cold treatments he presents on his show. He must get a lot of colds.  Poor fellow. In addition, he recommended willow bark for inflammation which is a compound similar to synthetic aspirin. I'm not sure why there is any benefit of taking willow bark instead of aspirin as they have similar benefits and side effects.

Finally, one throwaway comment Dr. Oz made just blew me away. He said that sore throats were caused by bacteria. Now, that's just wrong. Many, if not most sore throats are of a viral origin. Sore throats can even be cause by nasal leakage from a rhino-virus (cold), etc. So far, despite recommending many useless and potentially harmful supplements, that one comment alarmed me the most.  I know he must know better. Maybe it's time for a break. I know I could use one.

1 comment:

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