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.


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