Thursday, March 1, 2012

Debunking Dr. Oz-Day 1

I am following a blog that summarizes the insane recommendations made on Dr. Oz. And I'm doing this because, no word of a lie, EVERY SINGLE DAY I get someone who comes to me asking me if I carry some random, obscure product that I've never heard of. And now that I've started following this blog, I come home and read it and understand why they were asking me. Because Dr. Oz recommended it. And this concerns me. If he was just some guy who spouted off garbage that no one listens too, fine. But my patients actually intend on ingesting supplements and making changes in their health habits based on his information. To me, that is scary.

So, starting now, every time I get a request for something and I then see that it was featured on the Dr. Oz show, I'm going to tear it to shreds and expose it for the blatant sensationalistic ratings-grab that it is.

Today's ridiculous recommendation? Parasites may be the cause of your fatigue.

Problem #1: The whole premise. First of all, contrary to the statements of Dr. Oz and his guest, parasitic infections are NOT widespread. It's such an absurd idea that I'm not even going to justify it by referencing the facts unless someone really insists. Second, the whole diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome is incredibly contentious. Medical science is not even decided on what CFS exactly is, what causes it, and what symptomatology it represents. Because of that, there is no reliable way of stating its prevalence within a given population. Furthermore, there is only a SINGLE human study looking at the link between a SINGLE parasite (Giardia lamblia) and CFS. The study was poorly designed as it relied on mail questionnaires and did not control for lifestyle factors that could have explained the increase in CFS. And, if you can't agree on the diagnosis or definition of the condition you're studying, how valid are the results?

Problem #2: No evidence for the recommended therapies.
1. Garlic: Will not keep parasites away. There are no good quality human trials assessing the effects of garlic on human parasites. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, the best evidence-based reference for natural products, states that there is insufficient data to conclude any significant antimicrobial effect of garlic, despite the guest's claim that it is a "natural anti-microbial". So is ethanol.
2. Wormwood tea: This is the obscure question we got today. "Do you have any wormwood tea?" No in vivo human studies of any significance conducted using wormwood tea against intestinal parasites. No evidence whatsoever.
3. Papaya seeds with honey. I'll assume the honey is a crucial component? I love looking this stuff up. I get all sorts of results for experiments done in rats, pigs, and chickens. Fantastic. Again, no surprises. Absolutely no studies of significance in humans for this product. And in case you like using products tested in goats and lambs, it doesn't even work in them.

Crap, crap, and more crap. Pretend treatments for pretend causes of pretend "diseases". If you have chronic fatigue, I'm not saying it is not potentially due to a medically significant condition. However, you are one unlucky soul if it is caused by a gastrointestinal parasite. Given your luck, I wouldn't hedge your bets on the useless products recommended by Dr. Oz.

Dr. Oz is not on TV to make you healthier. He is on TV to make himself rich and to do the same for the companies that make the products that he recommends. And every time I think he can't get any more ridiculous and make his medical degree look like more of a joke, he surprises me. Watch him for entertainment or just plain interest, or because you like watching intellectual train wrecks unfold before your eyes. BUT DO NOT WATCH HIM FOR RELIABLE, HONEST, SAFE, OR SCIENTIFICALLY VALIDATED MEDICAL INFORMATION. In fact, you'd be much better served from a health perspective if you spent that 30 minutes exercising.

1 comment:

Dr. Avery said...

It's a lonely world for a clear thinker in a sea of easily led, supplement chasing morons.

This modern-day snake-oil pushing carnival barker is all the more harmful, for the size and susceptibility of his audience. And when they discover that their latest panacea has failed them, they don't stop for a moment to question the source, before moving on to the 'cure du jour'.

'Dr. Oz' is annoying in his quackery, but it is the fact that skepticism can so easily circumvented in so many that makes this sad.