18 September 2011

Dr. Oz, quack (or yes, you can drink apple juice)

Last time I mentioned Dr. Mehmet Oz, he was extolling the virtues of psychic readings as a form of grief counseling and touting a hybrid of homeopathy and acupuncture as some sort of panacea. If you thought this guy couldn't get any worse, guess what: he just did.

Here's the saga in a nutshell: Dr. Oz recorded a show in which he tested apple juice for total levels of arsenic, and came to the conclusion that apple juice is potentially unsafe due to levels of arsenic that exceed the FDA's standard for drinking water. The FDA wrote him a letter prior to the show being aired informing him that his testing methodology was deeply flawed and his claims misleading. Oz and company ignored the FDA's letter and ran the show anyway.

You can read the FDA's letter here, but the gist of it is this: Oz's tests were not only inaccurate, but they failed to distinguish between organic arsenic (which is safe) and inorganic (which is not safe). Oz's test looked only at total arsenic. Further, the FDA varies the amount of safe arsenic based on consumption; since people drink a lot more water than they do apple juice, the safe amount of total arsenic is a little higher in apple juice.

In other words, Dr. Oz has fabricated a health concern where none need exist. It's irresponsible fear-mongering, and Oz should be have his feet held to the fire for it. Oz's audience is unlikely to be informed enough to do anything other than take Oz's claims at face value, breeding a misplaced mistrust of the FDA and a pointless aversion to a completely safe fruit juice.

When Oz was taken to task on the issue by ABC's Heath & Medical Editor Dr. Richard Bessler, he backed down from his conclusions – suggesting that he merely wanted to "start a conversation". He acknowledged that there is no immediate health concern from apple juice, but stood by the misleading results of his lab.

He's a peddler of pseudoscience and quackery, and now he's manufacturing a health crisis. But hey, I'm sure the ratings were great!



Further reading:
Oz Gets Taken to Task Over Apple Juice (Steve Novella @ The NESS)
Dr. Oz is a piece of shit (Michael Hawkins @ For the Sake of Science)

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