Saturday, February 11, 2012

Anatomy 101: Dissecting the Dr. Oz Show - Friday February 10, 2011

"Say it ain’t so Joe?" is the purported question posed by a young man to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, one of the popular professional baseball players implicated in the Black Sox Scandal. This scandal involved members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox who participated in a conspiracy to fix the World Series. 
That question came to my mind when I watched Friday’s episode of the Dr. Oz show. 

“Say it ain’t so, Andy?” is the incredulous question I pose to Dr. Andrew Weil, a guest on the show, whom many consider to be the father of integrative medicine.   

Before I tell you why I ask that question, let me first say that having only previously seen photographs of Dr. Weil, I was shocked at his screen appearance.  By my visual guestimate, he either borders on or has crossed the line of the definition of being obese.  With a white beard, a jovial smile, and a matching girth, he reminds me of Santa Clause. Despite the positive connotation, this immediately raised concerns for me regarding the credibility of any health and nutritional advice he would offer.  Being so overweight is usually a pre-condition for many serious chronic diseases. If he can't take care of his own health, I wonder how good his advice can be? 

If that wasn’t bad enough, he started recommending numerous supplements like every other pill-promoting doctor in America. It was truly shocking coming from this health icon.

One of the products Dr. Weil pushed for memory enhancement was phosphatidylserine.   

According to, there is inconclusive scientific evidence to support its use in that regard. 

(As an aside, you may ask why I trust versus all the pill-pushing seers. There are several reasons. First, they sell no products and accept no advertising. They operate on a subscription only basis and count major research universities and the government as their clients. Second it was founded by a reputable Harvard employed pharmacist and a physician. Third, they provide all the written support for any of their recommendations, including all relevant studies. Finally, they have no reason not to tell the whole truth as the science demonstrates as it doesn’t affect them one way or another. In the spirit of full disclosure, I considered investing in some time ago. As I signed a confidentiality agreement, I cannot reveal why I chose not to invest. All I can say is that it had nothing to do with the quality of the service.)

Here’s a specific and suspect recommendation from Dr. Weil, quoted from the Dr. Oz website:

“Niacin (vitamin B3) is…shown to raise HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Plus, it’s much cheaper than a prescription drug and has similar effects.
·         Niacin 500 mg Extended Release - Every night at bedtime
Be sure if you take either of these to do so under your doctor’s direction.”

Here’s what the website of the University of Maryland, one of the country’s leading universities involved in nutritional research, has to say about Niacin in regards to high cholesterol. Notice the reference to LDL, not HDL.

“Niacin -- but not niacinamide -- has been used since the 1950s to try to lower elevated LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglyceride (fat) levels in the blood. However, side effects can be unpleasant and even dangerous. High doses of niacin cause flushing of the skin, stomach upset (which usually subsides within a few weeks), headache, dizziness, and blurred vision. There is an increased risk of liver damage. A time-release form of niacin reduces flushing, but its long-term use is associated with liver damage. In addition, niacin can interact with other cholesterol-lowering drugs (see "Possible Interactions"). You should not take niacin at high doses without your doctor's supervision.” Read more:

In fact, the University of Maryland website recommends about 16 mg of Niacin daily and the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (National Academies Press) recommends 14 mg for women and 16 for men over the age of 19. One serving of sockeye salmon supplies 19 mg of Niacin.

So it turns out that Dr. Weil is recommending we take a Niacin pill that contains more than 30 times the dosage we need on a daily basis.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not advice I would follow particularly given the dangerous potential side effects.

So why was Dr. Weil giving such advice given his knowledge and experience?

I believe he has also succumbed to commercial enterprising. First, he’s a guest on a show that loves to recommend pills. Second, he gets to tout his new book for sale on the show so it’s not surprising that he would follow the philosophy of the show of pushing pills. Second, while doing some internet research, I came across a banner ad of his offering free nutritional advice. Clicking on it led me to his new website where he gives advice on what pills you should buy from him.

So at the end of the day, he is just another celebrity doctor trying to make money off of selling pills to gullible and unwary Americans. He states that all of his profits go to his non-profit foundation.  Don’t be fooled.  I can’t say for sure, but I suspect he benefits from the foundation in some manner. Probably uses the foundation to maintain his tax-exempt status. Just a guess.

The statement that really got me, however, was when he said that he gets his anti-oxidants from a daily multi-vitamin. Is he serous? Does he truly believe that an anti-oxidant in a pill is nearly as healthful as that derived from a natural source like eating an apple or spinach?  Doesn’t he know that antioxidants in their natural state are surrounded by enzymes, co-enzymes, activators, precursors and other synergistic nutrients? Augh!

Let’s get back to Dr. Oz.  He recommended Matcha tea as a good mid-day natural stimulant. He also stated that it has ten times more antioxidants than green tea. That’s an odd statement as Matcha tea is a finely-milled green tea.  Oops!

He also recommended Arniflora for pain. Again, there is no corroborating conclusive scientific evidence to support its use for such purposes. 

Yet, my favorite line of the show is when Dr. Oz said he uses the Arniflora all the time for his own aches and pains. Interesting. Why does he have so many aches and pains? Could it be from all those supplements he recommends and presumably takes on his own? Maybe he should stop taking them and then he’ll feel better naturally.  Now there’s some food for thought.


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