Friday, January 4, 2013

Dr. Oz and His So Called Miracles: Red Palm Oil

My wife sometimes has a perverse sense of humor. I came home last night and she was excited to tell me that she had recorded yesterday's episode of The Dr. Oz Show. She was absolutely gleeful with delight as she said that the name of the episode was "Dr. Oz's 13 Miracles for 2013."

Dr. Oz loves to use the word "Miracle."  Miraculously, he seems to produce more miracles than any clergy-person I have ever heard about. He calls the people who help him find his miracles appropriately miracle-workers. Now the last time I checked, a miracle is an event attributed to divine intervention. Coincidence?

When I was in medical school, we were told that there are no atheists among doctors because every doctor thinks he or she is G-d. Although we went to different medical schools, I wonder if Dr. Oz heard the same thing, but took it literally. Now I grew up in a religious household and I find it objectionable to hear the word miracle bandied around so loosely. This is painfully true at the moment for me as a loved one struggles with an aggressive kidney cancer, and it may actually take a miracle for him to be spared from its short term ravages.

Sometimes, I wonder if the only true miracle in regards to Dr. Oz is that he hasn't really harmed anybody yet with his reckless proclamations. Of course, I am only making an assumption that no one has been harmed because I don't really know for sure. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that some poor soul that followed Dr. Oz's 2012 litany of weight loss miracles developed a serious or life threatening health issue. In 2012 alone, Oz recommended Green Coffee Extract, Sage Leaf Tea, Raspberry Ketones, Glucomannan, and Garcinia Cambogia as magic, if not miracle, weight loss pills. He's even been known to use phrases like "breakthrough," "revolutionary," and "holy grail" to describe his offerings. Imagine if someone took him literally and tried all these pills at the same time. I know patients who have tried a combination of some of these, of course with no success. Ouch!

But 2012 was not the end of his malarkey.

(see article in Slate magazine published January 1, 2013 about Dr. Oz and his dubious science:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/01/can_you_trust_dr_oz_his_medical_advice_often_conflicts_with_the_best_science.html.)

As recently as yesterday, he outdid himself when by only the third day of the month he was already pronouncing the greatest miracle, if not product of the year. This was something new and great.  As my wife and I watched the show he proceeded to explain how Red Palm Oil (RPO), the first "miracle" that could prevent Alzheimer's, clear blood vessels of fatty plaque build-up, and remove fat from around the omentum (the expanded fat that surrounds bulging waists).

After Oz effectively used contraptions to demonstrate each principle, my wife (who is highly intelligent, but subject to the same persuasiveness that beguiles many Oz followers after one of his pronouncements) turned to me and asked how I knew that the product didn't work as promised.

I diligently explained that what he had described made no scientific sense because the known mechanisms involved in Alzheimer's, calcified plaque build-up in blood vessels, and white fat deposits around the waist were basically different.  In addition, if such a product actually existed or were discovered, it wouldn't simply be the best product of 2013. In fact, it would be the best product of all time.

Why?

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. If there were actually a product that cleaned out fat deposits in our blood vessels it would essentially eliminate cardiovascular disease. If there were a product that effectively removed waist fat it would eliminate the weight loss industry. If you could prevent Alzheimer's, you would eliminate sixty plus percent of all dementia cases and with some artery cleaning, at least another ten to fifteen percent.

This would seriously be the greatest scientific discovery of our time.

So what is the actually story about Red Palm Oil?

First, it's not a new discovery. As early as 1929, a study was published in the Biochemistry Journal titled
 
They knew it then, as they do now, that Red Palm Oil contains a lot of beta-carotene and tocotrienols, a type of Vitamin E. There have been dozens of studies over the years in rats showing various benefits of taking RPO and several studies in humans showing it to be a good source of carotene. So are carrots and similarly pigmented vegetables. Like Olive Oil and Safflower Oil, studies in humans have not shown any particular harm related to using this mono-unsaturated oil.

In one human study published in 2003 and done in China, which was a single blind (researchers knew who got what; test subjects did not) randomized controlled study titled Effects of red palm oil on serum lipids and plasma carotenoids level in Chinese male adults, results showed that blood concentration of total cholesterol, triglyceride, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, apolipoprotein AI and apolipoprotein B of all subjects showed no significant changes in the RPO group during the study. In other words, although RPO apparently does no harm and raises levels of carotene and Vitamin E, it does nothing to body lipids.

Numerous other studies have also shown no increase in lipids either from this monounsaturated fatty acid. In total, there are less than 100 studies done in regards to RPO and almost all are lab or animal based studies that offer little human relevance.

Therefore, the claims Dr. Oz made on his show yesterday about Red Palm Oil were simply not realistic. Suffice it to say that claiming that RPO has miraculous qualities is at best blustery, and at worse, abject dishonesty.

One final note. At the completion of last evening's show, Oz made a point to share letters from fans illustrating the great benefits people have had from watching his show. Perhaps he was smarting from the unfavorable Slate article (see above) and needed to stroke his ego after this uncommon media bruising. I understand. He had been called out in a major media publication and it hurt. What was bemusing is that not one of the letters he read from grateful fans included any reference to any supplements he has recommended on his show. Instead the thank you letters all referred to the actual science he sometimes discusses on his shows like the importance of early detection for breast and colon cancer.

If he stuck to the mundane, but important work of reminding Americans to be diligent in cancer prevention and early detection, then I doubt few would ever fault him again. But to expect that with yesterday's show heralding no less than 13 new "Miracles," would be nothing less than a miracle itself. That's a shame.

6 comments:

  1. Dr Oz and his staff should have done more research before recommending palm oil. While originally from West Africa, today 90% of the global supply of palm oil actually comes from Indonesia & Malaysia. This has come at a tremendous environmental cost. Indonesian and Malaysian forests are being burned to the ground-- releasing so much carbon into the atmosphere that Indonesia now ranks 3rd behind China and US in carbon emissions-- and it is barely industrialized. The UNEP estimates that the forests of Indonesia are being cleared at a rate of 6 football fields per minute every minute of every day.

    To see how palm oil is produced, watch the award-winning documentary GREEN. It available as a free download here: http://greenthefilm.com

    The palm oil industry is guilty of truly heinous ecological atrocities, including the systematic genocide of orangutans. The forests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only place where these gentle, intelligent creatures live, and the cultivation of palm oil has directly led to the brutal deaths of thousands of individuals as the industry has expanded into previously undisturbed areas of rainforest.

    When the forest is cleared in order to make room for oil palm plantations, every living creature is captured or killed. Adult orangutans are shot on sight. These peaceful, sentient beings are beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured and often eaten. Babies are torn off their dying mothers so they can be sold on the black market as illegal pets to wealthy families who see them as status symbols of their own power and prestige. This has been documented time and again.

    If nothing is done to protect orangutans, they will be extinct in just a few years. Visit the Orangutan Outreach website to learn more: www.redapes.org

    ReplyDelete
  2. As I am unable to easily validate the veracity of your comments, I will let them stand as they are and let others be the judge of them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was absolutely shocked to see Dr Oz recommending that people should consume palm oil. This seemingly innocent-sounding vegetable oil is in fact a leading contributor to climate change.

    While originally from West Africa, today 90% of the global supply of palm oil actually comes from Indonesia & Malaysia. This has come at a tremendous environmental cost. Indonesian and Malaysian forests are being burned to the ground-- releasing so much carbon into the atmosphere that Indonesia now ranks 3rd behind China and US in carbon emissions-- and it is barely industrialized. The UNEP estimates that the forests of Indonesia are being cleared at a rate of 6 football fields per minute every minute of every day.

    The palm oil industry is guilty of truly heinous ecological atrocities, including the systematic genocide of orangutans. The forests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only place where these gentle, intelligent creatures live, and the cultivation of palm oil has directly led to the brutal deaths of thousands of individuals as the industry has expanded into previously undisturbed areas of rainforest.

    When the forest is cleared, every living creature is captured or killed. Adult orangutans are shot on sight. These peaceful, sentient beings are beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured and often eaten. Babies are literally torn off their dying mothers so they can be sold on the black market as illegal pets to wealthy families who see them as status symbols of their own power and prestige. This has been documented time and again.

    If nothing is done to protect orangutans, they will be extinct in just a few years. Visit the Orangutan Outreach website to learn more: www.redapes.org Richard Zimmerman

    Home - Orangutan Outreach
    redapes.org
    How Can I Help?1. Adopt2. Donate3. Shop4. Reach Out

    ReplyDelete
  4. Again, as I am unable to easily validate the veracity of your comments, I will let them stand as they are and let others be the judge of them.

    ReplyDelete
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