Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Caveat Lector -- Let The Reader Beware!

A new study shows…

How many times have you heard that phrase followed by some new big revelation? It’s usually a new discovery because few scientists want to study and merely confirm what is already known. If they do, the confirmed results often don’t see the light of day. However, if they discover something new then watch out.

More importantly, the media doesn’t grab attention by generating headlines about widely accepted knowledge.  Often times, the new information creates a buzz because it conflicts with previously accepted science; not surprisingly, often these types of studies grab the most headlines. 

The problem with such studies and the headlines they generate is that no single study proves anything—it merely adds to our knowledge. That’s why people are cautioned to not accept any media science headlines at face value without knowing the full scope of the study reported and how its conclusions fit in with the greater body of evidence surrounding the topic.

At a recent wedding, three of my cousins approached me to ask nutritional questions. One even asked me during the meal if what he was eating was healthy.  Another commented that they should watch me to see what I eat to determine what was good for them.  That approach would be a horrible mistake.  A healthy diet should never be judged by one meal alone; healthy food should never be judged on the basis of isolated nutrients.

One would think that it is well understood that a healthy diet should be viewed holistically (in its entirety), but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise when studies like the one recently published by the CDC hits the media circuit. The study, titled Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach attempts to clarify the value of consuming certain fruits and vegetables over others based on the levels of certain nutrients they contain.

As part of the study, Jennifer Di Noia, an associate professor of sociology at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., crafted a list based on the nutritional density of fruits and vegetables, using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As the basis of determining nutritional value, she used 17 nutrients including potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.
By her own admission, because she felt that since it was not possible “to include phytochemical data in the calculation of nutrient density scores, the scores do not reflect all of the constituents of a fruit and vegetable that may confer health benefits.” By phytochemicals, Dr. Noia is referring to all the antioxidants, like anthocyanins, polyphenols, carotenoids, etc., and other nutrients that naturally occur in fruits and vegetables; the same antioxidants that are believed to work synergistically with all the other nutrients in the fruits and vegetables to deliver the full nutritional value of a food item; the same naturally occurring antioxidants that are believed to play a role in neutralizing free radicals.

In addition, her qualification list only includes 17 nutrients while there are 13 vitamins, 15 minerals, two fatty acids, nine amino acids (she did include proteins, but did not clarify if they were complete proteins that by definition contain all 9 essential amino acids), and water, all of which are considered essential to human functioning. So even though there are 49 absolutely essential (as identified by current science—of course subject to future revision) nutrients, her list was based on only 17. Nevertheless, she concluded that they were apparently the most important.

What were her conclusions? Leafy green vegetables are good.  No big surprise. Raspberries, tangerines, cranberries, garlic, onions, and blueberries are essentially a waste of time when it comes to their nutritional soundness. Why? Because they didn’t have enough of the 17 nutrients she deemed important. Forget about what else they have in them; they just don’t make the cut. That’s just plain absurd.

An essential nutrient is an essential nutrient.  None is more important than another. Further, it’s renders her study meaningless when she leaves out phytochemicals.  If you followed Noia’s logic, you shouldn’t bother eating fruits and vegetables at all. Just pop a pill that includes the same amounts of her 17 key nutrients and call it a “Powerhouse Pill.” Shameless.

Nevertheless, I am very surprised, given the study’s limited utility, that the CDC published it in the CDC’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.  More importantly, until I read the actual study, I was baffled by its reported conclusions. Once I knew what criteria had been used, I also knew its true value—zero.  I disdain the use of “powerhouse” to describe any food as being more important than other foods contributing to an overall healthy diet. Using such a word is nothing more than an attempt at hype to grab more media attention. Uch.

For me it invoked once again the saying, Caveat Lector—let the reader beware!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dr. Oz Show Canceled???

New York, NY. June 6, 2017 --After riot police were summoned, Harpoon Productions, the producers of the Dr. Oz Show bowed to public outcry and the rapidly growing crowd outside it’s studios that stretched down Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue, blocking traffic for miles in any direction, by announcing today the immediate cancellation of the syndicated television show that ran for ten years featuring Dr. Melvin Oz.    

The problems with the show had been steadily increasing due to mounting scandals plaguing Oz such as a lawsuit concerning burnt diabetic toes.  Another scandal involved Dr. Oz denying the fact that he and his family take no supplements and never have despite stating the opposite on many episodes.  In the face of incontrovertible evidence, Oz has continued to claim that he consumes dozens of supplements a day to prevent colds, hair loss and fungal infected toenails. However, the most troublesome revelation about Oz was the discovery that he is paid $1 every time he endorses a supplement. It is believed that Oz has joined the Forbes 300.
Problems for Oz and his show escalated on Wednesday when a group of several hundred morbidly obese women and men gathered outside the studio at Rockefeller Plaza in New York.  They came to protest against the show and its star. Waving banners that read, “You Did This To Us” and “Stop Feeding Fat Lies To Skinny People,” the protesters were presumably reacting to Oz’s now almost daily proclamations of new ways to lose weight, including his most recently touted  “One-Minute Rapid Weight Loss Plan” and “How To Lose Ten Pounds By Donating An Organ.“
These newfangled, unscientific, and radical plans were touted by Dr. Oz pursuant to what he declared was “recent research that showed they worked.”  In addition, these “quickie” weight loss plans, described by Oz as “miracles” had joined a long list of his other rapid weight loss schemes like Raspberry Ketones, Garcinia Cambogia, and Glucomannan.
One hefty protester by the name of Pop Goestheweasel, a 64 year old construction worker from Yonkers  said that he had enjoyed a 34 inch waist before watching the show based on his wife’s advice.  Goestheweasel,, who now appears to have ballooned to at least four hundred pounds, cut the interview short to snack on a pizza and milkshake Oz had recommended on a recent show as “a magical weight loss elixir.”  He also admitted that he was a sucker for Oz’s medical persona and until today continued to hope that the next Oz advice would be the one that finally restores his waistline.
Events really started to get out of hand when the original protesters were joined by thousands of once happy, but now neurotic women who joined the fray waving medical bills.  These bills estimated to total in the millions of dollars were the result of faithful viewers seeking immediate medical attention after Dr. Oz aired multiple episodes about the dangers of ignoring warning signs, such as sneezing once may indicate breast cancer, and an eye sty may be a sign of a heart attack.  
One woman in the crowd identified as Gota Migraine, a 47 years old housewife from Queens, revealed that she had seen five internists and thirteen specialists after hearing Dr. Oz tell his TV audience that fatigue may be due to Overexertion, a newly discovered illness.  After researching Overexertion on the internet, this lady was determined to seek appropriate medical attention to combat her life-altering condition. Despite numerous medical exams and tests, alternative medicine doctors she sought out after seeing them repeatedly featured on The Dr. Oz Show who had been unable to pinpoint why Overexertion was causing her fatigue. After being told to take no less than three thousand different supplement pills and nutritional foods, many of which had been emphatically endorsed on the Dr. Oz Show, Mrs. Migraine realized that her fatigue was due to carrying around hundreds of bottles containing her daily supplements.
The final straw for the Dr. Oz Show’s producers was when the crowd expanded to include hundreds of thousands of scalpel wielding doctors who traveled from all over the world to beg Oz to stop spewing pseudoscience to their patients.  In fact, it was noted that some doctors were actually breathing heavily from the burden of listening to their patients for years tell them that “Dr. Oz said this…and Dr. Oz said that.”  
The crowd, including the panic-stricken doctors, went into a frenzy when an announcement was made that Dr. Oz had issued a message for the crowd that “protesting against the Dr. Oz Show was bad for their health.”  Fortunately, the crowd quieted and was noted to have uttered a collective deep sigh of relief when news of the show’s cancellation reached them.  Even as the crowd began to dissipate, some doctors were noted to be tending to the morbidly obese men that had overdosed on Glucamannan and were suffering from intestinal blockage, while other doctors were seen comforting the neurotic women that everything would be okay now.
As for Melvin Oz, who could not be reached for comment, authorities report that he was taken into protective custody pending resolution of the incident. At the same time, it’s been announced that all his ubiquitous images on TV, magazines, internet, newspapers, and billboards have been removed to avoid inciting another mass protest.  It is clear the good doctor is no longer in.
This parody is meant as good fun. It is completely fictitious, as are all the characters and none of it has happened (at least not yet.) 
In addition, no real people were harmed in the writing of this parody, but it’s not certain that the same can be said for the viewers of the Dr. Oz Show.