Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Pill Pushing Dr. Oz: His New Diet; Melatonin and DGL Licorice for Heartburn

I truly thought I was done critiquing the good Dr. Oz, but here I go again.  Looking for something to watch as I mounted my elliptical, I fancied upon his show yesterday titled Dr. Oz's Two-Week Rapid Weight-Loss Diet. Now don't even get me going on the concepts of "rapid weight loss" and "diet," let alone something meaningful and lasting that is suppose to happen in two weeks. (See my previous blog on "Stop The Weight Loss Madness.") But the show started innocently enough with Dr Oz telling the audience that if they cut out all dairy (other than Greek yogurt), all bread and wheat based products (yes, that includes pasta), all sugar (including all alcohol), all artificial sweeteners, and all coffee, they could lose on average nine pounds over two weeks like his audience did. Now who can argue that cutting out many of the foods that cause weight gain may result in weight loss? I can't. (I'm not a fan of these quick weight loss schemes and a recent study shows the more often you try a new way to lose weight, the harder it gets. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/1/34.full) I think its disingenuous for Oz to claim that its something new or easily doable. Changing one's diet is at the crux of successful weight loss and it's just a big tease to throw this out at people. Either way, if he stopped with his diet suggestions, all would have been fine.

But of course, my pill-pushing friend couldn't help himself. After discussing this "new" diet, he recommended that people take a multivitamin and probiotics. Why? Just to play it safe. Are lean protein like fish and chicken, unlimited (that's his words) vegetables, nuts, Greek yogurt, fruits, unsweetened almond milk, and flaxseed not a good enough source of vitamins (other than Vitamin D)? If so, why should everyone take a multivitamin? From my perspective, it's because he's a pill-meister; a pill pimp, a pill-monger. You get the point, he's addicted to pushing pills. Could it be because the pill companies advertise on his show and websites? I don't know nor do I care. I just wish he would stop confusing people. Of course, he didn't describe the potency and bacterial strains that the probiotics should contain, which can make a difference between a complete waste of money for everyone versus some possible effect for some people.  Should you take 100 million or ten billion? Two strains or ten? Which strains? What's the point of making a recommendation without being specific and explaining why? (See my blogs about probiotics.)

So somewhat bemused that he was up to his old tricks, I hoped he was done, but expected no such outcome. He did not disappoint.

The third segment on the show was about natural ways to treat heartburn. For that, he recommended 3 mg of melatonin each night for 4 weeks and a herb called DGL licorice, which he recommended before every meal. Unfamiliar with either of these recommendation and always willing to explore alternatives to prescription pills, I went to work to try and validate his assertions.

Let's start with the DGL licorice. The only double-blind randomized controlled study appears to have been done in 1973 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4584640) and showed no benefit over placebo. I also searched the naturalstandard.com database, which gave it a letter grade of "D," which means there is "negative scientific evidence"-- the evidence stacks against its effectiveness. It just doesn't work.

For melatonin, which is naturally produced by both your pineal gland and in your gut, and is also a by-product of sun exposure to your skin and associated with Vitamin D production, there was one small study that involved only sixty people that showed some benefit. However, the study used more than a 50% larger dose of 5 mg versus the 3 mg he recommended. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17426465?dopt=Abstract.)  I couldn't find a study at 3 mg. Nevertheless, one study should never form the basis of a recommendation. Studies are often flawed and that's why good science requires validation. That's how naturalstandard.com grades different substances; it bases the grade on the body of evidence. It gave melatonin a "C" for effectiveness against gastrointestinal issues such as heartburn, which means the science is inconclusive. Besides, the explanation Oz offered for why he thinks melatonin even works on heartburn was not consistent with the human scientific literature. It's believed to be a completely different mechanism, unrelated to the pyloric sphincter he claimed was involved.

Finally, as melatonin is often used as a sleep aid, taking such a pill when you don't have a sleep problem, can alter your sleep.

It's very clear to me that Dr. Oz has little regard for making recommendations without proper vetting. If you know someone foolish enough to take advice from this man in regards to supplements, please show him or her this blog and the several dozen others I've written that point out the danger of such advice.

Shame on you, Dr. Oz, again.


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