Wednesday, February 29, 2012

RX for Depression

In the Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, a play published in 1604 and written by Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare, I discovered my favorite quote in all of literature.  The play is about Dr. Faustus, a wealthy and successful physician who grows bored with life and makes a deal with Lucifer. The deal is that in exchange for Satan giving Faustus special powers and knowledge, Faustus agrees to surrender his soul to the devil at the end of 23 years. As part of the deal, Lucifer assigns his right hand henchman Mephistopheles to accompany Faustus on his journeys.

During their time together, Faustus finds opportunity to ask Mephistopheles a question. The question is predicated on what happened to Satan and his other henchmen who used to live in heaven with G-d. As the story goes, Lucifer led a revolution against G-d and as punishment was banishment from heaven and casting out to hell. Mephistopheles was among those dislodged from heaven.

Faustus's question to Mephistopheles is how could someone who knew the glories of heaven tolerate the misery of hell. The response represents my favorite literary line. Mephistopheles answers that "The mind can make a heaven out of hell and a hell out of heaven." I wholeheartedly agree.

Over the past couple of days, I've had occasion to spend time with a few patients that either feel depressed or are on anti-depressants. I spent considerable time listening to each patient's history so I could fully comprehend the root cause of his or her depression.

It is well known that there is an epidemic of anti-depressant prescriptions being written in the US. Its obviously a lot easier for a doctor to write a prescription then spend the time necessary to get to the root cause of the depression. (In fact, last year a psychiatrist described in the NY Times how the new economics of medicine had forced him to markedly curtail time with patients from sometimes an hour or more to a mere 15 minutes, the time he thought he needed to identify the right prescription medication for his patient.  It's a sad state of affairs. I created MDPrevent to be an old fashioned practice that gives patients all the time they need to express their concerns, worries, and needs. I find it makes a huge difference. Just yesterday as I approached the second hour of a consultation, I finally discovered that my patient had fainted two weeks earlier, and then her husband, who was in the room, suddenly reported that she had suffered recently from some hallucinations. This information would not have been identified unless I had spent the appropriate time to learn everything that was going on.  Time with patients matters.)

Numerous studies have shown that the key to a healthy, well-adjusted, and long life is a sense of meaning and purpose. The Okinawans, who enjoy the highest rates of living to 100, call it Ikigai. It is their purpose for living. The French call it the Raison D'etre, the reason for living. Living is not about existing or surviving. It is about finding purpose in one's life.

There are many ways to find purpose in one's life, which include helping others by actively participating in a community service function. The studies show that when you volunteer from a selfish perspective, you don't feel better. However, the studies also show that such selfish volunteering often leads to selfless volunteering which does improve our state of mind and overall health. Volunteering can take many forms and can have many focuses. It can include working in a soup kitchen to feed the homeless. It can include helping home-bound seniors by staying in contact, helping them shop, or providing companionship. It can involve working with underprivileged and neglected children by mentoring them and letting them know that someone cares. You can volunteer at an animal shelter, a hospital, or a nursing home. You can participate in a food drive, a blood drive, or a walkathon. There are many ways to help others and one need only open one's eyes to find them.

At MDPrevent, we have a bulletin board dedicated to community service opportunities because we believe that it is at the very core of healthy living and disease prevention. I strongly encourage anyone who feels rudderless or without purpose to keep searching until you find a community service that is engaging. In the interim, get involved in your Church, Synagogue or Mosque if you are affiliated with one. Doing something is better than sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.  It's not that you may not have a good reason to feel sorry for yourself, it's just that the sitting around wallowing in self-pity serves no purpose. As the old Chinese proverb states, "man will sit in a chair for  long time with mouth opened before roasted duck flies in." You have to make things happen. As my oldest friend Jay's mother Eleanor use to say, "G-d helps those that help themselves.")

You may say what do I know? I'm a successful physician/entrepreneur. I seem to have everything a person could possibly want. It's true. I am blessed to have what I have. I worked hard for everything I have but I was also lucky.

But three years ago, after selling my first company, I found myself without anything to do. I quickly fell into a deep depression. I couldn't get out of bed. I had no reason to do so. I walked around muttering 168. That's the number of hours in a week. I was desperate to fill them.  My mind was making a hell out of heaven. I thought that if I only ran my old company, all would be well. It turned out that I got he chance and I was wrong. As I know now, "thoughts are not facts."

It was ultimately up to me to find purpose and meaning in my life. I did an inventory of my life, my experiences, and my skills. I focused on what I was good at and what had previously given me pleasure. I started MDPrevent to be my form of community service because I felt that there could be no greater human service than helping people stay healthy, avoid preventable diseases, and live longer, happier lives.

So if you are depressed, as I was for a good year, then maybe its time to do something about it instead of depending on a pill or simply self-pitying yourself. Go out and help someone else. I promise you that your problems, regardless of what they are, will not seem so bad when you discover the less fortunate and find joy and purpose in helping them.

In addition, create an exercise routine in your life. Countless studies have shown that exercise lifts moods and markedly decreases depression.

So my RX for your depression is to help others and exercise routinely. For most people, it sure beats those little false hopes called pills that your doctor may give you.

You have but one life to live. What are you going to do with it?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our aversion to loss is greater than our desire for gain

At the American College of Preventive Medicine conference, I heard Dr. Kevin Volpp who is a Professor of Medicine and Health Care Management; Director, Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, at the Leonard Davis Institute,  and Director, Penn CMU Roybal P30 Center in Behavioral Economics and Health Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Volpp's academic credentials include: a PhD, University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) 1998; MD, University of Pennsylvania 1998; AB, Harvard College, 1989.

Dr. Volpp talked about the role of behavioral economics in understanding and influencing patient behavior.   From his talk, I gleaned one of the most significant insights I have had in over a year.

The impetus for me to start MDPrevent was my learning that Medicare was implementing coverage for the Annual Wellness Visit. This made me ecstatic because this was the first time that Medicare was going to pay a doctor to focus on disease prevention instead of treatment.  What got me even more excited was that it was not going to cost the patient a penny. It was essentially free to the patient and not subject to the deductible and co-payment as are most Medicare services. This news just rocked my world.

So over the past few months since opening the doors at MDPrevent, I have been informing the local Medicare population that there is new free benefit available to them that could change their lives and help them prevent, delay, and even mitigate the development and severity of deadly chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and some forms of dementia.

The response has been less than expected. Although we have already performed over 500 patient visits, I had expected there to be a stampede of demand. MDPrevent is providing a free service that can have a dramatic effect on one's life. Seniors in Florida are known heavy consumers of health care services and this service can spare them unnecessary pain and suffering. I thought this was the right message given my twenty years of experience taking care of 5 million seniors and working with their families for service approvals, the same families that have since turned 65. I couldn't figure it out. Why aren't more seniors taking advantage of this amazing service? According to Medicare, around 5% of eligible seniors took advantage of the service in 2011, the first full year of implementation. That means 95% missed out. Why was this happening? I was dumbfounded. Then I heard Dr. Volpp speak.

Dr. Volpp said that people have more of a risk and loss aversion than a gain motivation. In other words, people are more concerned about losing something than they are interested in gaining something. The light blub went off in my head.

By marketing the new service as free, I have been sending the wrong message. The connotation of free suggests little value. The old adage, "you get what you pay for" comes to mind.  Seniors aren't appreciating the value of this service and it's a shame. It is a wonderful service and MDPrevent provides it as well if not better than anyone in the country. MDPrevent's medical professionals give each patient as much time as needed to thoroughly review all aspects of health history and lifestyle, including a comprehensive review of diet and supplement usage, and then make recommendations on proper usage as appropriate.

While Medicare pays about $175 for this service the first year and about $110 each year thereafter, I think the service's potential effect on one's short term and long term health is priceless.

Therefore, my message has changed from come get your free service to don't lose out on a wonderful and valuable service that has a value of $175.

Will the new messaging make a difference? Only time will tell.

I openly offer this insight because I want as many seniors as possible to benefit from this incredible service across the country.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Grandmother Taught Me the Most Important Lesson in Life

People often ask me "Why are you so interested in the care of older Americans?"

I tell them that for me there has been since childhood a natural
attraction to caring for aging Americans. For that, you can thank my

Grandma's Doctor

My grandmother, whom I met when I was seven years old, was an
immigrant to the US. She didn't speak a word of English and I
couldn't speak any of her languages. Yet, we found ways to
communicate with each other. She loved when I pretended to be her "Doctor."
I would motion for her to stick out her tongue so I could put in
the back of a spoon and examine her throat; I would pretend to check
her pulse and listen to her heart.

A soft touch, a kind word, and genuine concern would never fail to
bring a smile to her face.

One day, while I was role-playing her Doctor, she turned to my mother and with a
bright smile, said something. I asked my mother what Grandma had said.
She replied that Grandma said I was her "sunshine." I knew then and
there that my destiny was to care for people, and that such care had
to include a soft touch, a kind word, and genuine concern.

Money and Medicine

Years later, I would graduate from the New York University School of
Medicine and pursue a career in surgery. During my two years of
surgical training, I felt that something was wrong. Day after day, I
saw that the economics of medicine were increasingly driving its
practice. People who had never actually provided care were making
decisions that affected patient care. I felt that people could more
appropriately make such important decisions with training in the
disciplines of both medicine and economics. There had to be a better
balance between meeting health care needs and making money.
So, I completed my residency and went to Harvard Business School.

In the Beginning…

In 1989, I co-founded HealthDrive with Dr. Alec Jaret, a dentist who
since 1983 had been providing the much-needed service of caring for
elderly residents at long-term care facilities. We shared a
philosophy of aiming to set higher standards of care for the
residence-bound elderly. In 1990, we recruited Dr. Jeffrey Morer, an
Optometrist, and in 1992, Dr. Mary Manesis, a Podiatrist, to likewise
establish high quality programs for the elderly in their respective
specialties. In 1995, we added Audiology. As a team, we carefully and
slowly grew our programs to serve thousands of elderly residents in
many long-term care facilities. Eventually, we took care of over 5 million seniors.

Keys to Success

We grew our programs by closely following three principles. First, we
would only work with providers after diligently reviewing their
credentials and ensuring that they were well-regarded professionals.
Second, we insisted that these professionals demonstrate the highest
standard of ethical behavior and provide their care with dignity,
compassion, and concern for their elderly patients. Lastly, we
required their treatment plans to be thoughtfully considered,
medically appropriate and clearly documented so that their care could
withstand close scrutiny.

Frustration Mounts

As the years went by, even as we continued to grow, my frustration started to mount. Hampered by government regulations that precluded virtually any preventive-activity, it grew wearisome to have very little effect on our patients’ ultimate outcomes. Ridden with chronic diseases and cognitive impairment, time was often not very generous for our patients. Regardless of what we did, we eventually said goodbye to them. We strove to do well by doing good but the well was easier to measure. By 2008, I felt the time had come to move on and I sold the practice to a private equity firm. I retired for a year then came back for another year before eventually exiting to start MDPrevent, the next and most meaningful chapter in my life to date.

What I saw and learned over those twenty years is what drives my passion to make the world a better place and help future generations avoid the same fate that befell my previous patients. I know MDPrevent can make a difference for people of all ages.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Doctors gone wild!

I just returned today from the American College of Preventive Medicine's (ACPM) annual conference in Orlando.

Let me preface my comments by saying I love the ACPM and what it stands for: physicians dedicated to prevention. It is an organization made up of physicians who have primarily dedicated themselves to preventing diseases as opposed to just treating them like most of the rest of the American medical establishment.  I also appreciate that in regards to preventing disease, evidence-based medical practice is growing but still fairly limited and therefore there can be a wide divergence of opinions in the place of available facts.

That said, I was truly shocked by the plethora of opinions I heard expressed by both conference speakers, other attendees, and even the vendors in the exhibit hall. There was Dr. Neil Barnard pushing his vegan only agenda. Dr. Mark Hyman pushing functional medicine. Dr. Mark Houston was pushing supplements, albeit indirectly.

I found Dr. Robert Kushner, who heads up Northwestern's Comprehensive  Center on Obesity to be the most credible presenter I heard. He promised no miracle cures and magic pills. He spoke sensibly and didn't recommend supplements except when there are identified deficiencies. He wasn't pushing an agenda or a book.

It's a shame that some of these other doctors may genuinely be interested in improving the health of others, but their one size fits all approaches makes everything they say suspect.

My take-away from the conference is as follows. One size does not fit all. Food really is all important when its at the root of the problem. The challenge is identifying when that is the case. There is no reason to take supplements unless there is an identified reason to do so. Such a reason would be Vitamin D3 for someone with little to no sun exposure or B12 for an avowed vegan. Identified deficiencies are another good reason, but never mega-doses.

I believe that when conventional medicine cannot find a solution to a problem, then more out of the box thinking may be indicated. Given that most of the body's serotonin is made in the gut, most of the body's interactive surface area is in the gut, most of the body's cells and genes are in the gut, it makes sense to think about how the gut may be a contributor to causing or curing diseases. Metabolic pathways matter and most of then initiate in the gut. 

So I give a thumbs up to functional medicine which focuses on metabolic pathways and their contributions to diseases and cures, a sideways thumb to Dr. Mark Hyman who argues that food is both sustenance and medicine, but then indulges in many supplements anyway, a wobbly sideways thumb to Dr. Neil Barnard who advocates against fish and for limited nut consumption as part of his only Vegan mission, another wobbly sideways thumb for Dr. Mark Houston who lists far too many supplements on his website as treatments, and a big thumbs up for Dr. Robert Kushner who seemed to be mostly interested in giving good old fashioned practical medical advice. Don't get me wrong, I like to see doctors challenge the status quo. I just like there to be some science behind what they are saying instead of anecdotal evidence. Presenting a few case studies proves very little especially when you claim to have cured Alzheimer's Disease in some patients as Dr. Hyman claimed to me.

Of course these impressions were formed after a hour or so with each of these gentlemen (2 hours with Dr. Mark Hyman) so there is some jumping to conclusions on my part, but I don't think I am far off the mark.

One last note. I spent considerable time speaking with a physician who is a distributor for NuSkin who tried to peddle the Pharmanex scanner to me to lease from him for my office patients.  I wasn't buying because the arguments simply didn't stack up for me. While carotenoids seem to have some protective elements, they are not the end to end all in determining antioxidant activity, and testing for them alone ensures nothing but a reasonable measurement level of carotenoids, 

It's a shame that this is the third physician in a week who tried to push this device and the related Lifepak Nano on me as a viable product for patients. The bigger shame is that they have had to resort to making a living as multi-level marketers because they apparently aren't satisfied with what they can earn as physicians alone. I will not judge them, but I will tell you that it made me very sad that it has come to this type of snake-oil peddling shannanigans on the part of licensed physicians.  To me, they are physicians gone wild.

By the way, I scored a 67 on the Pharmanex scanner test, which is considered a solid best A range score. Apparently, I am getting my fill of carotenoids by simply eating right and without any pills or supplements. Go figure.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Disappointed in Disney

Greetings from Prevention 2012, the American College of Preventive Medicine's annual conference taking place at DisneyWorld.

It seems like an appropriate venue for the conference after hearing some of today's presentations. Just as Disney is meant to simulate fantasy and inspire one's imagination, some of things I heard today seemed just as fantastical and imaginative.

During a nutrition related presentation, Doctor Mark Houston claimed that it is best to use nutraceuticals to address vitamin deficiencies. When pressed on why a proper diet is not sufficient, he gave me a weak answer that didn't quite measure up for me. First, he said that a proper diet can't address a vitamin deficiency. It did with night blindness in Egypt, with scurvy among Scottish sailors, and beriberi among Japanese seamen. So I say nonsense that a proper diet will not work just as well.

Then he said that once the deficiency is addressed, the diet would be sufficient and the deficiency would not return. Either diet is good enough to address the deficiency or it won't prevent a deficiency from returning. You can't have it both ways.

Of course when I checked out his website, he is just another pill-touting doctor monetizing on Americans' insatiable hunger for pills. Of course, he also endorsed a battery of lab tests that costs over $400, a cost beyond the budget of most people. And the day wouldn't have been complete without promotion of his new book.

Here I thought I would find reprieve from pill pushers in Disney. Boy, was I wrong.

On the other hand, I found Dr. Mark Hyman intriguing. Although I'm not sure fit I fully agree with his conclusions about the effectiveness of Functional Medicine, I think it merits further investigation. He also had a book to promote, expensive tests to perform, and some pills to suggest, but there seemed to be some interesting science for me to further explore.

Unfortunately he lost some credibility when he recommended probiotics for patients with normal guts. There is no science to support it's use in that regard.

Let's see what tomorrow brings in MickeyLand.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Enemy of The People

It's been some time since I read Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, a novel about a town doctor decrying the health risks associated with the hot springs in the town which everyone thinks is otherwise healthy and is also key to their economic futures.

I belong to a group of health, wellness, and fitness professionals on LinkedIn. In response to a comment about who takes supplements, I weighed in about the tsunami of recent data that suggests that supplements may actually be harmful. Given that many members of the group sell such supplements, the reaction was swift and harsh. The doctors in the group who sell such supplements took an even angrier stance. It was as if I was threatening their livelihood, which I was apparently doing by speaking out against rampant supplement use.

I'm not surprised. We all know the effect that money can have on certain people. The arguments went back and forth with me asking for scientific evidence that their supplements work to prolong life and them countering it doesn't matter what the science shows as long as people say they feel better. Of course that led to a discussion about the placebo effect, but that resulted in my being lectured on people having a right to express their opinion. I agree that people have the right to express an opinion. I simply don't agree that they can state as fact that which lacks any supporting evidence.

However, what I found most interesting were the people who contacted me privately to say they agreed with me. Apparently, they were afraid to address the angry crowd directly.

Unable to refute me scientifically, the arguments turned more poetic with quotes from Robert Frost and some authors unknown to me.

Notwithstanding, by the end of the discourse, I was able to answer some people's questions, such how to treat a Vitamin D deficiency and perhaps, I was no longer the lone doctor warning the town of the dangers that lurked within. My day as an enemy of the people was done-at least for now.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Time To Move Past Dr. Oz

Over the past few weeks, I've invested considerable time in watching Dr. Oz's daily show only to identify what he presents which is inaccurate, inconsistent, or unsubstantiated. I did so as a public service.

I believe over this period of time, I have repeatedly demonstrated Dr. Oz's show to be a generally unreliable source of medical and health information. However, pointing out such misinformation does not help people identify the few supplements from which they can actually derive some benefit, and all the other measures they can implement to stay healthy, live longer, avoid chronic disease, improve well-being, etc. That's is what I truly am striving for and so it is time to focus on the positive.

Therefore, my future blogs will completely focus on helpful suggestions and valuable information.  Stay tuned.

Peeling back the wizard's curtain

The other day I received a comment in response to something I wrote about the Dr. Oz show.

It read, "You don't challenge a wizard."  It was an obvious cross-reference between the fictional Wizard in the Wizard of Oz and Dr. Mehmet Oz.

In response, I impulsively wrote, "He's not a real wizard. He just plays one on TV."

After writing my response, I started thinking about the similarities behind the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz and the actual Dr. Oz.

Unlike the Wizard, Dr. Oz does not hide behind a curtain and use smoke and mirrors to impress his audience. Instead, on an almost daily basis he blatantly engages his audience with new secret cures and potions.

However, both characters do pretend to be something they are not. The Wizard worked hard to create the impression that he was all powerful, which turned out to be an illusion.  Dr. Oz pretends to have magic pills and miracle cures, to have powerful remedies to jump-start diets and create lean bellies, to make wrinkles disappear and treat dementia, which also all turn out to be illusions. So maybe we would all be better off if he actually hid all those supplements behind a curtain.

They say that life sometimes imitates art. Has there ever been a better example than the Dr. Oz show?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Moderation - Not!

Often when I engage in a discussion about the importance of avoiding foods with white flour and sugar, foods high in saturated and trans-fats, and foods heavy on preservatives and other harmful additives, the response I get is that it’s okay to eat everything as long as it’s in moderation.  On the surface, this seems reasonable.   
Americans like moderation and are generally repulsed and afraid of extremism. The very nature of the word moderation is somehow soothing and reassuring. But when it comes to your health, is practicing moderation appropriate?

Let’s consider some aspects of moderation.  Is it okay to drive recklessly with moderation? Is it okay to drive moderately intoxicated? Is it okay to smoke in moderation? How about use illicit drugs in moderation? What about cheat on your taxes in moderation? Or commit infidelity in moderation? Would you accept a friend who betrays you in moderation?

In regards to your health, would you like to have any of these diseases in moderation: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, or dementia?  Would you eat rat poison or arsenic in moderation if they really tasted good? How about if you were really hungry?

So maybe moderation isn’t quite the panacea many people make it out to be.

Moderation when it comes to eating poorly will often lead to chronic diseases, diseases which are otherwise often preventable.  In fact, most people eat in moderation yet 2 out of 3 Americans are overweight and over 35% are obese.  A recent study suggests that within 8 years, 77% of men and 56% of women will be diabetic or pre-diabetic. Is that absolutely certain? No. but the trends are clearly alarming. That’s what moderation is producing.

My wife and I had a lively conversation yesterday.  She insists that if I want people to heed my advice, I must embrace moderation.  I usually agree with her (smart lady with great insights), but couldn’t in this regard.  Maybe, I won’t find a listening audience, but I give people more credit.  I think you have been misled for so long, you just don’t know who or what to trust anymore.  I can’t stop spreading the critical information people need to live healthier and I think once people learn the truth, they will make relevant changes and adapt healthier lifestyles. Many people need help to get started.

I can’t stop spreading the word when it comes to eating poorly. It would be unconscionable for me to tell you that it’s okay to eat foods that harm you even in moderation and will cause you to most likely suffer negative consequences as you age.

I can’t follow the herd and tell you that it’s okay to take supplements that haven’t been properly vetted in solid human studies and could be very harmful to your health.

I’m not interested in singing to the choir if that’s what it takes to be heard.

I’m on a mission.

I want to help my fellow Americans find more meaning in their lives, increase their well-being even as they improve their longevity.  I want to help them avoid illnesses that are directly linked to unhealthy lifestyles. The evidence for the power of prevention is now indisputable and I want to share it. 

Folks, stop being deceived by pill-pushing marketers who have but one agenda—to make you part with your money by peddling snake-oil equivalents of magic pills and miracle cures.  If these pills really did what they claimed, they would be drugs that needed prescriptions. Supplement pills solve very few problems. There is no fountain of youth.  Just ask Pounce de Leon.

People need to stop acting like ostriches and sticking their hands in the sand.  The food we eat today is relatively new.  Without refrigeration and pasteurization, we hardly drank milk and ate dairy products until the last century and definitely not milk with added hormones. (In fact, we are the only species on earth that routinely drinks milk after breast-feeding.) The animals we ate were not domestically farmed animals fed antibiotics. Most of our fish came from natural bodies of waters, not fish farms. There were no such things as trans-fats or artificial sweeteners. We ate local food, not foods which traveled large distances months after harvesting.  There were no artificial preservatives and synthetic chemicals even in existence.   

Our forebears were not exposed to the variety of unhealthy and tainted foods we experience on a daily basis. Super-sizing was not even a consideration for the average person.  

Our current food consumption pattern has not been a part of the human experience for any meaningful amount of time and yet most people think they can’t live without these disease promoting foods.

 I hope you agree that health and life are worth preserving, especially when they are yours.  Eating without regard to consequences will often lead to undesirable consequences.

At the end of the day, no one but you can control what you eat or put on your body for that matter. 

Isn’t it time you got serious about your health and stopped depending and hoping doctors can fix what goes wrong?  Is it worth the risk? Stop cancer, heart disease, and dementia before they happen.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  

To paraphrase Smokey the Bear, “Only you can prevent chronic diseases.”  

Please let me help you.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Anatomy 101: Dissecting the Dr. Oz Show - 3 Part Special Blog - Friday February 17, 2012

Part 1:

What if Dr. Oz was right? What if all the pills he’s been recommending every day on his show actually worked? Would that be a good thing? I don’t think so. Let me tell you why.

It is well established that lottery winners return to their previous level of happiness after winning. It is generally believed that the reason for this is because they have no sense of accomplishment in winning and therefore winning, regardless of the amount of money, ultimately has little impact on their overall sense of wellbeing and happiness.

What if the magic and miracle pills, as Dr. Oz likes to call the wide variety of supplements he recommends, actually reversed heart disease, prevented cancer, helped one lose weight, etc.? These pills would rob us as individuals of any responsibility for our health.

We would just take pills all the time. We would never have to watch what we ate, be physically active, get appropriate sleep, etc. We could do whatever we wanted without consequences. We would be robbed of any personal responsibility for what happens to our health.  This would be true for both physical and mental health.

Some people, perhaps many, may think that is a good thing. I don’t. I think personal responsibility is what our parents instilled in us as we grew up and what we instilled in our children when we raised them. It is at the core of our cultural, moral, and legal systems.

The concept of getting something without working for it reminds me of a Rod Sterling Twilight Zone episode in which a criminal upon his demise finds himself in a large, bright casino hall. He is approached by two men in white tuxedos.  Amazed by his good fortune, he comments that he didn’t think he would merit such an afterlife. The hosts assure him that he does. They invite him to gamble at his leisure and he readily accepts their offer.

He proceeds to gamble and is initially delighted by his winning. But it then starts to grow annoying and then unbearable when every bet wins. The women at the gaming tables laugh at his every comment. The relentless winning and superficial adoration wears on him heavily and he realizes that the situation is intolerable.

So he returns to his hosts and expresses his gratitude for being given the opportunity to come to this place, but feels the other place would be more appropriate for him. They laugh and respond, “What makes you think that you aren’t in the other place already?”  The episode ends with the hosts continuing to laugh devilishly.  The point of the episode is we don’t appreciate something that we get without effort and such a situation would be hell.

Again, I believe the same is true about health. If we knew we could live forever, what would be the value of time? What would be the value of anything?

I would say nothing. What makes our lives and health so valuable is their finite nature. We know that our actions have consequences and we know that nothing lasts forever. We can attach a value to every positive moment and experience. Stripped of this, nothing has meaning.

So in a perverse sense, there’s good news. Almost none of the pills Dr. Oz recommends have any real value. So I guess my treatise above will remain for the moment in the philosophical realm because scientifically, there are no magic, miracle, or power pills one can take to stay healthy, and that task mostly remains with us as individuals.  Be grateful that you have the ability to impact your health. The alternative may be far less pleasant.

Part 2:

The premise of today’s show was “eat more weigh less.” Need I say more?

Dr. Oz suggested that pre-dinner snacks help you lose weight. That may be true if you eat less for dinner. He didn’t say that.  That’s the presumption, but the reality is unless one knows what a person ate the entire day, a pre-dinner snack may be the beginning of a long night of eating.  

Be wary of quick diet fixes. They generally don’t work and as usual, Dr. Oz presented no science to support his claim that pre-dinner snacks result in less total calories consumed and less weight gained or more weight lost. Making a statement that such snacks “blast away belly fat” is just plain silly.

As an aside, two weeks ago he mentioned he has done 400 shows. Today he said nearly 500. I point this out only to emphasize his inconsistencies from one show to the next and why he cannot be relied upon as a viable source of scientifically valid information.

My least favorite part of the show was Dr. Oz. recommending drinks from Starbucks, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts coffee drinks in relation to health.  Recommending any Starbuck’s Frappucino as a health-promoting food is just plain wrong.  Shame on him.  I wonder what/if these companies paid for these endorsements?

At the end of the show, during his in case you missed it segment, he recommended ALA supplements. He was referring to Alpha-Lipoic acid but ALA can also be Alpha Linolenic Acid. That’s a dangerous and careless way to confuse an audience.

Part 3:

I met an elderly couple today. The wife told me that she watches the Dr. Oz show religiously in the recreation room at her retirement community. She said that she and her co-show-watchers are overwhelmed by the amount of pills Dr. Oz recommends daily.

The wife was shocked to learn that many of the pills he recommends have never been validated in proper human studies. She said it was a “revelation.”

So if anyone questions my motivation or wonders why I continue to write this blog and point out inconsistencies and inaccuracies promoted on the Dr. Oz show, please remember this anecdote.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Anatomy 101: Dissecting the Dr. Oz Show - Thursday February 16, 2012

“I always have a concern when you have to take a pill when you have to deal with an issue you have.” Guess who said that? Would you believe none other than the daytime king of pill-pushing himself, Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Every show, and today’s was no different, he’s pushing one pill or another. Did he even realize what he said? Does the audience hear the inconsistencies?

“I’m going to give you the power to fight cancer before you get the diagnosis” is how he began the show today. “It’s the holy grail of cancer prevention stopping cancer before it even starts. I’m talking about supplements that help fight cancer and you can incorporate into your diet right now.” Wow!

What was even more interesting is what his guest said in reference to the supplements being touted and I underline for emphasis. “Sometimes they can actually turn tables in our favor.” Sometimes?  This is surreal. Toying with people’s emotions about cancer is cruel. Recommending pills that according to him have only been tested in animals as cancer preventers is just plain awful.

Of course, none of the pills recommended today have scientific backing for the expressed purpose.  No surprises there. But what was a surprise was hearing the Black Raspberries are the best berries when just last week it was Ligonberries.  I guess a lot can change in a week of TV broadcasting.