On Oct. 18, Dr. Oz appeared on “Fox & Friends” promoting his new book “Food Can Fix It.” The book is Dr. Oz’s take on various “superfoods” and dietary habits, which he believes will help prevent a myriad of health conditions. His focus was of course related to how the poor lifestyle choices most Americans make drive up health-care cost. I agree; however, in typical Dr. Oz style, he went into unsubstantiated hyperbole about various “superfoods” and stated, “Food is our best salvation – food is sacred.”
On the inside jacket of the book, we read, “Mehmet Oz, M.D., America’s No. 1 authority on health and well-being, explains how to harness the healing power of food.” What academy of his peers gave him that designation? Apparently, the publisher of the book was unaware of the 2014 Senate Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on Consumer Protection on Weight-Loss Advertising. During this hearing, at which Dr. Oz was a guest, but likely wished he had not been, Sen. Claire McCaskill stated, “The scientific community is almost monolithic against you [my emphasis] in terms of the efficacy of a few products that you have called miracles.”
Science-Based Medicine (SBM) provides this: “Oz can give good advice, but he regularly combines it with questionable statements and pseudoscience in a way that the casual viewer can’t distinguish between the science and the fiction.” SBM also states that Dr. Oz “chooses to ignore science in favor of hyperbole. It’s the antithesis of what a health professional should be doing.” So, has Oz provided a book worth recommending? Here are some examples of his nonsense:
Superfoods: They simply do not exist. All plant-based diets contain thousands of plant chemicals, most of which likely play a role in our health, but to cherry pick various ones and attach the “superfood” label to them is unsubstantiated.
Daily supplement: Oz recommends one “to ensure that you get the daily recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals.” I found this odd in a book loaded with the benefits of purported “superfoods.” So even if I follow his superfood advice, I am still going to need a supplement? This does not sound so superfoodish to me.
Additionally, he appears to have no understanding of three distinct design mechanisms – yes design, not evolutionary, which maintain nutrient homeostasis over a broad range of intakes. I covered this issue extensively in my book “Muscles Speed and Lies,” but the gist of this is as follows:
You store all nutrients to some extent, from weeks to months and longer in some cases. If for whatever reason your needs increase or storage capacity diminishes, the absorption rates increase significantly, as well as the recycling or retention rates. These three mechanisms help to maintain normal physiological functions for several weeks when appropriate food choices are not available. It is Dr. Oz’s misunderstanding of the RDAs that you must meet them daily to stay healthy. The RDAs maintain maximum storage of a nutrient, and you do not have to have maximum storage for normal function. This is like believing that the fuel tank of your car must be constantly full for the vehicle to function properly. It functions just as well on a quarter tank of gas as a full one.
The typical red and processed meat scare: Dr. Oz states, “The most recent data suggest that red meat (particularly processed red meats, like sausage and bacon), are associated [my emphasis] with increased heart disease, stroke, and cancer deaths.” He fails to understand the difference between an association and a cause-and-effect relationship – something someone with as much medical training as he has should fully grasp. This is an issue I have already discussed in WND.
Oz bases part of this fear of red meat on the presence of L-carnitine in red meat, which is a naturally occurring compound your body synthesizes for proper metabolism of fatty acids into energy, ironically, especially for the heart. Dr. Oz states L-carnitine “messes with your gut bacteria.” This is nonsense and is related to a study performed by the Cleveland Clinic in 2013 using mice and published in Nature Medicine. However, in 2013, the Mayo Clinic Proceedings conducted a meta-analysis of 13 well-controlled studies representing 3,600 humans, not mice, and arrived at the opposite conclusion.
The standard demonization of artificial sweeteners: “Another reason to skip diet sodas: A recent study found that drinking them is associated [my emphasis] with a higher risk of both stroke and dementia.” Again, same problem as above, he fails to grasp some basic science. Seen my column “A nutrition professor and my Diet Dr. Pepper.”
Nitrates: He unnecessarily fears nitrates, which I have covered here.
He loves a good colon cleanse: “The benefit to all-liquid is that it reduces the load on your intestines giving them a short respite.” My intestines get a breather between meals, nothing more and nothing less. His concept here has no basis in science. Your intestines are designed to handle food traffic as needed. Fasting or liquid meals have zero relationship to keeping your intestines healthy. He also states, “that’s what dietary cleanse do: they help to remove the grit and grime from your innards, reboot all your systems, and set you up to speed through the green lights of life.” Dr. Oz would make a good stereotypical used car salesman. Embellishing the facts does not make him believable. This statement is completely irrational. There is no evidence your bowels need “cleansing.” Your gut bacteria and fiber in your diet do this for you as well as the normal movement of food waste.
Dr. Oz continues to be an untrustworthy source of nutrition and health advice. His book provides some good information, but you literally must have a degree in the field to separate his nonsense from the common sense. If he is “America’s No. 1 authority on health and well-being,” then the vulnerable who believe him need a brain detox not a colon detox.