Occasionally, I am reminded of his showmanship when a patient presents to MDPrevent with a heaping batch of worthless supplements in tow. The patients are often surprised when I surmise before even asking that they are a fan of Dr. Oz. "How did you know? they ask. The answer is simple because many of the products they are taking are among the worst of his recommendations, offenders like Raspberry Ketones, Sage Leaf Extract, Glucomanan, etc. I am always delighted to relieve them of the expense and chicanery of such products.
So after stopping to waste valuable time watching his show, I thought I had finally effectively distanced myself from Oz. It was not meant to be.
Last week, I came across a magazine cover on an airport newsstand. The large picture of frozen food colorfully displayed on the cover immediately caught my eye and the name below ultimately proved too intriguing to pass by. I say ultimately because I first ignored it and took a seat at my terminal only to shortly thereafter return to the newsstand to peruse the article behind the cover. (Yes, I actually read it standing there as I could not bring myself to pay for such anticipated nonsense.)
In the December 3, 2012 issue of Time magazine, I read an article written by Dr. Oz's titled 'Give (Frozen) Peas a Chance--and Carrots Too." The article starts innocently enough with Oz explaining that frozen vegetables retain the same nutrition as their fresh counterparts. On this point, the science supports the good doctor. As I kept reading, his other assertions also seemed hardly controversial. Then it came and couldn't believe it.
Mid way through the article, Dr. Oz shares a personal story of how he and his father use to drive together to the ice cream store when he was a child. During these wonderfully memorable rides, he writes how he learned much of what he knows about his father. Accordingly, he has fond memories associated with eating ice cream. This is not surprising.
Almost all patients I care for relate some positive (or negative) association with certain foods. Some enjoy steak because it represents a positive correlation to family dinners celebrated over some good news. For me, it's watermelon. It reminds me of returning from romantic dates on Saturday nights and enjoying a sumptuous slice of cool watermelon alone and undisturbed in the kitchen.
For Dr. Oz, it is clearly ice cream. On the surface there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's a very nice story and sentiment. Except he feels that his sentimental story warrants telling his readers that they should therefore consume ice cream (albeit in reasonable quantities).
There can be no doubt that Dr. Oz is aware of the epidemic of obesity that is ravaging our country. 36% are obese, two-thirds are overweight, over half die from heart disease, 8% have diabetes, etc. At the center of this huge problem is sugar, the very kind one would find in the ice cream touted by Dr. Oz.
In my clinical experience as well as in countless studies, many people clearly identify themselves as addicted to sugar and sugar has been demonstrated to cause the same areas of the brain to light up as drugs do for drug addicts and alcohol does for alcoholics. Recent studies also closely correlate sugar consumption with cancer stimulation and growth (by stimulating insulin release which then binds to insulin receptors on the cancer surface to signal uptake of such sugar to meet the energy needs of the cancer cells trying to multiply).
A recent article in Mother Jones magazine chronicles the efforts of the sugar industry over the past five decades to squelch negative publicity about the dangers of sugar and to confuse the populace about its perils. Sugar and related simple carbohydrates are also primarily responsible for the development of diabetes and high triglycerides. You don't have to be a doctor, let alone a cardiovascular surgeon, to know of the dangers of sugar even in small amounts for certain people and in larger amounts for virtually everyone.
Now don't even get me started on the fat content of the full fat cream used in most ice creams or the hormones, antibiotics (despite the law), and cornstarch fed to the cows that produce the milk used to make such products. And what about the food additives and coloring added for a myriad of flavors that range from cookie dough to maple walnut?
"Everyone knows that ice cream isn't good for you — it's a splurge," says Jayne Hurley, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "But most people don't realize how much of a splurge it is."
In 2009, the Center for Science in the Public Interest commissioned a study that looked at saturated fat and calories in some of the most popular treats from Baskin-Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery, Friendly's, Ben & Jerry's and TCBY. Most of the information in the nutritional analysis was provided by the companies.
(The following is excerpted from an article that appeared on a CBS News website in 2009.)
"Among the findings in "Living Large: The Scoop on Ice Cream Shops":
A chocolate-dipped waffle cone at Ben & Jerry's has about 320 calories and 16 grams of fat. Add one scoop of Chunky Monkey ice cream and the total surges to 820 calories and 26 grams of saturated fat — roughly as much as a one-pound rack of ribs.
Cold Stone Creamery's regular-size "Mud Pie Mojo" — coffee ice cream, roasted almonds, fudge, Oreo cookies, peanut butter and whipped topping — has a saturated fat and calorie level equal to two personal pan pepperoni pizzas from Pizza Hut.
At 1,270 calories and 38 grams of saturated fat, eating a Haagen-Dazs "Mint Chip Dazzler" sundae is like eating a T-bone steak, a Caesar salad and a baked potato with sour cream."
This appears to be the same type of ice cream that Dr Oz is advocating that people eat when they go to the store for this dangerous treat. He just says don't eat too much. Right.
(By the way, for further proof if his unreliability, on a website in which Oz has an ownership stake, a video is posted featuring him with the label, "Ice cream is delicious, but it is packed with fat and calories. In this video, Dr. Oz presents his concoction for a healthier ice cream treat.")
Folks, I don't care what sentimental attachment Oz has for ice cream. I hope you agree that it is reprehensible to tell a population struggling with weight problems to continue to eat one of the foods most closely related to avoidable chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancer, etc.--even in small amounts. Most people can't control such urges and studies have demonstrated that faced with such willpower choices, willpower will often fail them. One study even demonstrated that when confronted with flavorful food, the body will release a hormone that will stimulate people to eat even when they are not hungry.
On further thought, maybe it's a good thing if Oz keeps eating ice cream. Then I may not have to waste time educating others of the danger of taking health advice from him on TV, on the web, or in print.
That's not true. I really don't mean him or anybody harm so I hope he knows better and just keeps his mouth shut when it comes to eating and giving advice about ice cream. It wasn't the first time he made such a blunder, but for all our sakes and particularly those who hold him in great esteem and follow his every pronouncement, let's hope it's the last.