- Pulling back the curtain on Dr. Oz – policylab
- Dr Google probably isn’t the worst place to get your health advice
- Where are we getting health advice?
- New and improved Dr Google
- What Are the Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance?
- Estrogen Dominance Symptoms
- What Causes Estrogen Dominance
- 7 Ways to Decrease Estrogen Dominance
- Learn More — Additional Resources
- Trump appoints celebrity physician Dr. Oz to health council: 5 concerns
Pulling back the curtain on Dr. Oz – policylab
Have you bowed down before the great and powerful Oz? No, I’m not referring to the fictional wizard from Dorothy’s magical land. I’m talking about mass-marketed medical guru and Oprah protégé, Dr. Oz. And while he may be powerful, the scientific community is not convinced that his recommendations are all that great.
On paper, Dr. Mehmet Oz has all the qualifications of a pre-eminent medical expert. He holds degrees from both Harvard and University of Pennsylvania, has authored numerous research publications, and is currently a professor and the vice-chair of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. By all accounts, Oz is both an exceptionally bright and charismatic man.
Yet, it’s these same qualities that have incited the ire of so many physicians and scientists. Given his education and influence, there’s no excuse for the unsubstantiated claims and sensational language that is so pervasive on his show.
I’m not sure whether it’s willful blindness or calculated deception that causes him to disregard rigorous scientific standards.
But the result is that many of his recommendations are akin to the cure-all elixirs peddled by door-to-door salesmen in the patent medicine era of the late 1800s.
A quick jaunt into the science blogosphere reveals a litany of unsubstantiated claims including: the effects of low-calorie sweeteners on appetite; red palm oil and raspberry ketones as effective weight-loss supplements; excessive coffee consumption to prevent diabetes; fear mongering about arsenic levels in apple juice; and even lending credibility to homeopathy. These posts are being written by a growing number of concerned scientists. Oz often supports these claims by hosting “experts,” such as quack physician and anti-vaccine proponent, Joseph Mercola, describing him as a “pioneer in alternative medicine” and “a man your doctor doesn’t want you to know.”
In fairness, Oz does tout the benefits of balanced nutrition and regular exercise. But it would be hard to fill five hours a week with such a common-sense message. The idea of cutting back sodium and simple sugars is, admittedly, less seductive.
And as consumers we are very open to being seduced, and more than happy to pay for it. In 2009, the US supplement industry was estimated at 27 billion according to Consumer Reports.
A recent New York Times article describes dangers posed by excessive vitamin and supplement consumption; still, more than 50% of adults taking one or more dietary supplement on a regular basis.
But the ultimate cost may be much more than monetary. As a scientist, my greatest concern with Oz’s advice is his sensationalized rhetoric.
Packaging medical advice into “quick fixes” and “miracle cures” undermines evidence-based medicine. It encourages individuals to seek out alternative therapies in place of necessary medical care from qualified physicians.
And at its worst, lends credibility to the use of unsafe supplements with dubious regulation.
So let’s imagine that you’re not a PhD biochemist or medical doctor. Nutritional reports in the media are in constant flux; even well qualified individuals can provide unreliable information. You may rightly question: How do I know which claims to trust? Where can I get reliable scientific information?
The following is a practical guide in which I highlight some tools at your disposal to investigate media claims about health and nutrition. My goal is not to train a legion of armchair doctors. Rather, I hope to encourage readers to question the health claims they see in the media, and to seek the advice of qualified medical professionals where those claims appear to be unsupported.
A CASE STUDY: Debunking Garcinia Cambogia weight-loss supplement
On the following segment of the Dr. Oz Show, Oz promotes the health benefits of a weight-loss supplement, Garcinia Cambogia. Online sales of the supplement skyrocketed after the segment aired in the fall of 2012. Companies that manufacture the supplement have plastered Oz’s picture all over their advertisements.
1) CONSIDER THE CLAIMS
Perhaps the sleazy, infomercial-esque tone of the opening 30 seconds has already set off a few alarm bells. Oz introduces Garcinia as the “newest, fastest fat-buster” before asking, “How can I burn fat without spending every waking moment exercising and dieting?”
When we cut through the hyperbolic language, we find the following:
Major claims: Garcinia cambogia extract increases weight loss by 2-3 times, compared to diet and exercise alone. Oz also claims, “It could be the magic ingredient that lets you lose weight without diet and exercise.”
1) Blocks the synthesis of new fat in your liver
2) Suppresses your appetite by increasing serotonin levels
Very little. Several times, both Oz and his guest, internist Dr. Julie Chen, allude to a scientific basis for their claims. Oz mentions “revolutionary new research” and Chen indicates that results have been “seen in studies.
” But neither gives any indication about the size of the study, whether they were placebo-controlled, whether the participants were followed over a long period of time, and there is little mention of safety, or amounts of weight lost.
Instead, they offer as proof, a ridiculous demonstration that distills the body’s complex system of fat metabolism to water being redirected from one balloon to another. Oz then moves to his giant screen to explain, in an elaborate 30-second info-graphic, how this product affects your nervous system and, therefore, your mood and appetite.
By now, that seed of suspicion should be growing! If this product is strong enough to significantly alter two of your body’s fundamental processes, fat metabolism and neural signaling, maybe its use should be directed and overseen by a qualified physician? Maybe there is potential for serious adverse effects? Or maybe it just doesn’t work…
2) CONSIDER THE SOURCE
When considering the source, be it a person or organization, think of the two D’s: dollars and degrees.
Follow the money. Does the person recommending this product seek to benefit financially, either directly or indirectly, from its use? During the segment, Oz mentions that he is not endorsing a specific brand.
But while he is not selling Garcinia directly, he is selling the idea that “the holy grail of weight loss” exists, and you can “hear about it here first.
” This is what keeps his viewers returning and his books flying off the shelves.
Doctor knows best? Are the promoters of this product qualified to do so? Have they graduated from an accredited medical college or PhD program? Do other members of their field support their position?
By all accounts, Oz does possess the necessary qualifications to act as a medical expert. And this is why so many scientists have felt compelled to speak out against his recommendations. He should, and ly does, know better. As to whether or not the consensus supports his position, we’ll address that when we dive into the research.
In other cases, keep in mind that all doctors are not created equal. Be wary of those that claim the title, but who have attended online, non-accredited programs. And look for research that the author has published in peer-reviewed research journals.
3) SEARCH FOR THE BASICS
Using an online search engine is often a good place to start when investigating a claim. This can give you an indication of whether or not the claim has been supported or disputed by others.
The best resources will provide you with links to the original research papers that support or refute the claim. The resource should also identify the author, his or her qualifications, and whether or not they have a vested interest in the product.
University or government websites, and non-profit disease advocacy groups are often reliable sources of information.
In this case, followed by a seemingly never-ending cascade of advertisements, a Google search for “Garcinia Cambogia” returns this Wikipedia page.
Here, they indicate potential liver toxicity following long-term exposure, and no efficacy as seen in a placebo-controlled trial in the Journal of the America Medical Association.
Not conclusive, but certainly an indication that the claims have been disputed. So now we move on to the good stuff as we are prompted to dive a little deeper into the research.
4) PROBE THE RESEARCH
This is the most important and, unfortunately, for many the most opaque step in the investigation of any health claim. But there are some resources at your disposal.
Your best toolbox is to be aware of research methods and whether or not the study has clinical relevance. There are some very engaging and non-technical books on this topic, such as Bad Science, by UK physician Ben Goldacre. I’ve summarized a few of the key points:
– Basic research does not equal clinical relevance. Otherwise put, a chemical that has an effect in a petri dish very often does not trigger the same reaction in a person. It’s a good place to start but, remember, our bodies have many complex levels of regulation. The gold standard of efficacy is a well-designed clinical trial.
– What is a well-designed clinical trial? Another hefty question. Look for large numbers of study participants, followed over a long period of time, randomized and double-blind, and compared to either placebo or the current standard of care. It should be published in a peer-reviewed research journal. Now, you are on the right track!
– Clinical trials will evaluate both safety and efficacy. Safety is the first priority. The severity of side-effects that we are willing to tolerate will depend on the illness being treated.
For example, the FDA will approve cancer drugs with severe negative side-effects, if they can prolong someone’s life. With a weight-loss supplement, the tolerated side-effects will be close to zero.
– Studies should be reproducible. One is rarely enough. Look for a consensus among several independent studies.
To expand on this last point, look for a meta-analysis – a systematic review that combines data from many small trials, eliminating those with faulty methods. These give a better picture of most up-to-date understanding of a given field. The Cochrane Collaboration, which publishes Cochrane Reviews, is a reputable source of information.
With this information in hand, a quick search for “Meta-analysis of weight loss supplement Garcinia Cambogia” gives us two papers that review all available research, clearly outline their methods, and come to the same conclusion: Garcinia Cambogia has no significant effect on weight loss. If interested, you can read more in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of Obesity.
Don’t be blinded by science. This model of investigation can be applied to many diet and health trends. Armed with the right questions, you may find that just the wizard’s spells, many of the promised “miracle foods” and “fat-busters” are little more than smoke and mirrors – or, in our own Oz’s case, white coats and fancy info-graphics.
Act: If you’d help investigating a claim, a great resource is the Ask for evidence campaign initiated by international science advocacy group Sense about science.
Blogging beachside at the Red Sea in Egypt. Amazing (concerning?) that I can rant away in this setting.
Erin May is a PhD Candidate in Chemical Biology at Harvard University.
Dr Google probably isn’t the worst place to get your health advice
Who is your preferred source for health advice? Gwyneth Paltrow? Pete Evans? Or qualified medical practitioners – Dr Oz?
I hate to break it to you, but if you’re getting advice from any of these people, you’re quite ly being misled.
For example, contrary to Paltrow’s website, experts advise inserting jade “eggs” into your vagina is a very bad idea.
And last time I checked, wasn’t a peer-reviewed medical website, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the 20% of people using it for health advice.
The sheer volume of online health information now at our fingertips is both a blessing and a curse. How do you determine what is right and what is outright dangerous?
Should you get a “V-steam” to keep your lady parts looking young and healthy? Should you whip up a batch of paleo bone broth for your bub? (The answer to both these questions is no.)
It used to be that a medical degree was a pretty good measure of reliability, until the s of TV doctor Mehmet Oz and Dr Andrew Wakefield, the scientist responsible for publishing fraudulent research linking vaccines to autism, came along.
Even published peer-reviewed literature is no longer guaranteed to be untarnished – the rise of predatory publishing has muddied the waters to the point where an advanced degree in science or medicine is needed to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The ‘Dr’ part of his name may confuse things, but Dr Oz is also not a good source of health advice. Eckfactor/AAP
Never mind that most peer-reviewed information is locked away behind paywalls, meaning the average person has to fork out anything upwards of US$35 just for the privilege of reading it.
Where are we getting health advice?
The proliferation of misleading health advice online is worrying because a recent survey reported almost four five Australians (78%) use the internet to source health information.
Slightly more frightening is that three five people (58%) admitted they Google health information to avoid seeing a health professional.
Which should come as no surprise to anyone – just about all of us now walk around with the internet in our pockets. Googling health information is cheaper, faster, more convenient and, importantly (for some), discreet. And a quick search from the work bathroom avoids the embarrassment of providing intimate details to a stranger.
Google knows this.
Which is where Dr Google’s symptom checker and health condition cards come in.
New and improved Dr Google
The symptom checker is available on the Google app and works by you typing or talking in a string of symptoms. For example, I typed “hacking cough, headache” and Google returned “flu, common cold, upper respiratory infection” under a tab called “health conditions related to this search”. You can then click on those headings to be taken to a health card.
The health cards, launched in Australia last month, cover around 900 conditions such as asthma, measles and flu. The cards provide basic information about the condition under three tabs – “about”, “symptoms” and “treatment”. Doctors in the US and Australia a have welcomed the cards, with the former reportedly downloading them to present to patients.
The interface has a share button, the option to download the information to a PDF (to print out and take to your doctor), and a “related conditions” tab. You can access the symptom checker from the Google app and the health cards from both the app and browser.
These innovations are in response to the proliferation of pseudo-scientific and downright shonky advice that exists on Google. And while the tools are constantly being improved, they’re not perfect.
For example, given symptoms can be vague and are often shared across several conditions, Google suggested I either had “cold, flu, meningitis or yellow fever” when I typed in “backache, fever, headache”. So clearly, some level of discretion is advised.
The search engine giant is mindful of the potential for these tools to falsely reassure people about their health or, on the contrary, alarm them unnecessarily. It emphasises the advice returned is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with your general practitioner.
What’s important here is the reliability of the information returned by Google, and it seems to have that covered. Symptom checker is informed mostly by Knowledge Graph, the Google-made database tool that aggregates information from a swathe of sources and transforms it into an easily understood format.
But Google has gone one step further – it has collaborated with Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic in the USA to check the accuracy of returned results. In addition, the curation effort will soon extend to asking people who use symptom check how its results can be improved.
All of which combines to return significantly better results than those retrieved by a standard, non-curated, Google search.
Whether we it or not, people are going to continue to search for health information and advice online. This move by Google to provide accurate, reliable health advice on page one of search results should be applauded.
At the least, consumers can now find curated information from the Mayo Clinic rather than Dr Oz or Pete Evans.
What Are the Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance?
Plus 7 Holistic Ways to Decrease Estrogen Dominance
by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
The conventional medical mindset is that menopause is an estrogen deficiency disease resulting from ovarian failure. Women have been led to believe that at the slightest symptoms, they should run out and get estrogen replacement.
While estrogen levels will decrease during menopause, the truth is, estrogen levels do not fall appreciably until after a woman’s last period. In fact, far more women suffer from the effects of “estrogen dominance” during the transition — that is, they have too much estrogen relative to progesterone.
And some women can suffer from the symptoms of estrogen dominance for 10 to 15 years, beginning as early as age 35.
Estrogen Dominance Symptoms
The symptoms listed below, as well as many others, often arise when estrogen overstimulates both the brain and body. All of these symptoms are exacerbated by stress of all kinds. Many women in their thirties and early forties find that they experience moderate to severe symptoms of estrogen dominance as they approach perimenopause.
- Decreased sex drive
- Irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods
- Bloating (water retention)
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Headaches (especially premenstrually)
- Mood swings (most often irritability and depression)
- Weight and/or fat gain (particularly around the abdomen and hips)
- Cold hands and feet (a symptom of thyroid dysfunction)
- Hair loss
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Sluggish metabolism
- Foggy thinking, memory loss
- Trouble sleeping/insomnia
Estrogen dominance has also been linked to allergies, autoimmune disorders, breast cancer, uterine cancer, infertility, ovarian cysts, and increased blood clotting, and is also associated with acceleration of the aging process.
What Causes Estrogen Dominance
When a woman’s menstrual cycle is normal, estrogen is the dominant hormone for the first two weeks leading up to ovulation. Estrogen is balanced by progesterone during the last two weeks.
As a woman enters perimenopause and begins to experience anovulatory cycles (that is, cycles where no ovulation occurs), estrogen can often go unopposed, causing symptoms. Skipping ovulation is, however, only one potential factor in estrogen dominance. In industrialized countries such as the United States, there can be many other causes, including:
- Excess body fat (greater than 28%)
- Too much stress, resulting in excess amounts of cortisol, insulin, and norepinephrine, which can lead to adrenal exhaustion and can also adversely affect overall hormonal balance
- A low-fiber diet with excess refined carbohydrates and deficient in nutrients and high quality fats
- Impaired immune function
- Environmental agents
7 Ways to Decrease Estrogen Dominance
Here’s what you can do to decrease estrogen dominance:
- Increase nutrients in the diet: Take a high potency multivitamin/mineral combination.
- Follow a hormone-balancing diet:
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
- adequate protein
- and moderate amounts of healthy fat.
- Remember to get enough fiber. Estrogen is excreted by the bowel; if stool remains in the bowel, estrogen is reabsorbed.
- Use transdermal 2% bioidentical progesterone cream: Many of the symptoms of estrogen dominance can be relieved with natural, bioidentical progesterone, available over the counter in a 2% cream (one-quarter teaspoon contains ~20 mg progesterone). Use one-quarter to one-half teaspoon 2% progesterone cream on skin (e.g., face, breasts, abdomen, hands) daily for two to three weeks prior to onset of period. If periods are irregular, use 2% progesterone daily, or from the full moon to the dark of the moon. (That way you’ll be teaming up with the cycle of the Earth itself — the same cycle that governs the tides and the flow of fluids on the planet.)
- Lose excess body fat and get regular exercise — especially strength training.
- Detoxify your liver: Traditional Chinese Medicine explains that menopausal symptoms are caused by blocked liver and kidney chi. This makes sense. The liver acts as a filter, helping us screen out the harmful effects of toxins from our environment and the products we put in our bodies. When the liver has to work hard to eliminate toxins such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine, or environmental agents, the liver’s capacity to cleanse the blood of estrogen is compromised.
- Decrease stress: Learn how to say no to excessive demands on your time. Remember, perimenopause is a time to reinvent yourself. This means investing time and energy in yourself, not everyone else.
Learn More — Additional Resources
- The Wisdom of Menopause, by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 4, “This Can’t Be Menopause, Can It? The Physical Foundation of the Change”
- The Wisdom of Menopause, by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 7, “The Menopausal Food Plan: A Program to Balance Your Hormones and Prevent Middle-Age Spread”
- Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 14, “Menopause”
- Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 17, “Nourishing Ourselves with Food”
Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness.
Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.
Trump appoints celebrity physician Dr. Oz to health council: 5 concerns
Julie Spitzer – Monday, May 7th, 2018 Print | Email
President Donald Trump announced his intent May 4 to appoint a number of individuals — including controversial healthcare celebrity Mehmet Oz, MD — to the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition for a two year term.
The president also plans to appoint New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and former bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk on the 1970s and 1980s TV show “The Incredible Hulk,” to the council, which is designed to promote “regular physical activity and good nutrition,” according to Vox Media.
The administration is concerned about the decline in youth sports participation in recent years, yet it is selecting Dr. Oz, who has mislead the public on health for years with his popular TV show.
Here are five ways Dr. Oz makes a troubling pick, according to Vox.
1. Before he launched his TV show nearly 10 years ago, Dr. Oz was a researcher and cardiothoracic surgeon. However, in a number of his show's episodes, he has preached on behalf of homeopathy, failed diet supplements and discredited GMO studies, Vox notes.
2. His show has given vaccine deniers and pseudoscience promoters — Vani Hari, better known as “Food Babe” — a venue to share their ideas.
3. In 2014, a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection called on Dr. Oz to justify his advocacy of weight loss products that don't actually work. “The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called 'miracles,'” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said at the time, according to Vox.
4. The Federal Trade Commision announced several large settlements against guests brought onto the Dr. Oz Show.
For example, in 2015, a modern-day snake oil salesmen named Lindsey Duncan, who refers to himself as a world leader in superfoods, herbal medicine and natural health, appeared on an episode in which Dr. Oz praised his knowledge of weight-loss aids. Mr.
Duncan holds only “alleged degrees” in naturopathy from a non-accredited, distance-learning college “named on the Higher Education Coordination Board's list of 'Institutions Whose Degrees Are Illegal to Use in Texas,'” Vox reports separately.
5. In April 2015, a group of professors, scientists and physicians argued Dr. Oz's show was so misleading his role as a medical school professor at Columbia University was unacceptable.
Dr. Oz, however, expressed excitement over the appointment. He tweeted, “I've been supporting children's health programs with @HealthCorps and appreciate the need to improve lifestyle opportunities for our youth. Serving on @FitnessGov offers a platform to amplify the best practices shown to work across our school systems.”
More articles on leadership and management:
8 things to know about CEO Mark Herzog and his 17-year career with Holy Family Memorial
3 ways leaders create a toxic environment
60% of organizations think burnout will be worse in 2-3 years: 5 survey insights
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