From the December, 2012 Canadian Pharmacist’s Letter (paywalled, sorry), a subscription-funded, completely independent resource for pharmacists, comes a warning about the Hemocode food intolerance test: Continue reading
Links, posts, and articles of interest to SBP readers: Continue reading
If there is an antithesis to the principles of science-based medicine, it’s probably the Dr. Oz show. In this daytime television parallel universe, anecdotes are evidence. There are no incremental advances in knowledge — only medical miracles. And every episode neatly offers up three or four takeaway health nuggets that, more often than not, seem to leave the audience more ill-informed about health and medicine than they were 30 minutes earlier.
After I completed my post on Dr. Oz’s prolonged embrace of the “miracle” that is green coffee bean extract, a number of readers brought me up to speed. Green coffee beans are yesterday’s miracle. The new weight loss miracle for 2013 is red palm oil. This constant drive for miracles must keep the producers in a perpetual panic. They need at least five miracles per week. Having now watched a few episodes, I’m reminded of the classic “That Mitchell and Webb Look” skit where two nutritionists pick a new superfood. It could be just a matter of time until we see white veal profiled as a superfood in a future Dr. Oz episode.
If there is a common characteristic of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) proponents who believe themselves to be scientific (and I include Dr. Oz in this group), it is that they extrapolate from weak clinical evidence to grandiose claims by cherry picking the most supportive strands of evidence to give the impression of being evidence-based. They have the belief, and then they look for the supporting evidence to bolster the claim. In short, to paraphrase a quote attributed to Hahns Kuhn, they use scientific evidence like a drunkard uses a light post: for support, not for illumination. As I noted with green coffee bean extract, Dr. Oz extrapolated from ambiguous, preliminary data to recommendations to consume green coffee bean extract as a weight loss strategy. Frankly, the evidence isn’t there, so I didn’t have high expectations with the latest miracle. All I knew going in about palm oil is that it’s used in most industrial food production and the demand for it is linked to massive destruction of tropical rainforests and the slaughter of orangutans. But who doesn’t want the longevity that Dr. Oz promises? So I sat down and watched another episode.
Winter has now fully descended across most of Canada, giving views like the the one above. Here are some links of interest to SBP readers: Continue reading
It’s January which means it’s detox season. Not surprisingly, the scientific evidence supporting “detox” and “cleansing” hasn’t changed since this post was originally written in January 2009:
How ineffective products treat non-existent conditions
They may line the shelves of your local pharmacy. Boxes or bottles, with some combination of “detox”, “cleanse” or “flush” in the product name. The label promises you a renewed body and better health – only seven days and $21.95 away. It’s the New Year – wouldn’t a detox from your sins of 2012 be a good idea to start the year? After all, the local naturopath offers detoxification protocols, so there must be something to it, right?
Wrong. This is a case of a legitimate medical term being turned into a marketing strategy. In the setting of real medicine, detoxification means treatments for dangerous levels of drugs, alcohol, or poisons, like heavy metals. Detoxification treatments are medical procedures that are not casually selected from a shelf or from a menu of alternative health treatments. They’re provided in hospitals when there are life-threatening issues.
So what’s with all the detox products in the drugstore?
To given the impression of science, “detoxification” is a term that has been widely embraced by alternative practitioners, and pharmacies simply want their share of the business. Anything can be a “detox” now, especially at the beginning of January: Diets, fasting, supplements, tea, homeopathy, colon flushes, scrub brushes and foot baths all mention detoxification. Let’s look at the most common product in the pharmacy: the seven- to thirty-day kits promising a whole new you. To evaluate the value of these detox kits, we need to understand the science of toxins, the nature of toxicity, and how detox kits claim to remove toxins. With this framework, it’s a simple matter to spot the pseudoscience and be a smarter consumer. Continue reading
“One of the most important discoveries I believe we’ve made that will help you burn fat – green coffee bean extract” – Dr. Oz, September 10, 2012, Episode “The Fat Burner that Works”
Dr. Mehmet Oz may be biggest purveyor of health pseudoscience on television today. How he came to earn this title is a bit baffling, if you look at his history. Oz is a bona fide heart surgeon, (still operating 100 times per year), an academic, and a research scientist, with 300+ or 400+ (depending on the source) publications to his name. It’s an impressive CV, even before the television fame. He gained widespread recognition as the resident “health expert” on Oprah, and went on to launch his own show in 2009. Today “The Dr. Oz Show” is a worldwide hit, with distribution in 118 countries, a massive pulpit from which he offers daily health advice to over 3 million viewers in the USA alone. For proof of his power to motivate, just look at the “Transformation Nation Million Dollar You” program he launched in 2011, enrolling an amazing 1.25 million participants. Regrettably, what Oz chooses to do with this platform is often disappointing. While he can offer some sensible, pragmatic health advice, his show’s content seems more focused on TV ratings than medical accuracy, and it’s a regular venue for questionable health advice (his own, or provided by guests) and poorly substantiated “quick fixes” for health issues. (And I won’t even touch Oz’s guests like psychic mediums.) One need only look at the number of times the term “miracle” is used on the show as a marker of the undeserved hyperbole. Just this week, Julia Belluz and Stephen J Hoffman, writing in Slate, itemized some of the dubious advice that Oz has offered on his show, with a reality check against what the scientific evidence says. It’s not pretty. Continue reading