Entries for the ‘Thoughts about Dr. Oz show’ Category

Health communication and Dr. Oz’s message about paraben

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

May 1, 2012

I am in the midst of final exam week and grading. In the background, Dr. Oz started talking about ‘paraben’ and how it acts as an estrogen. I am always on the alert for these kind of messages. Hormones, research, cancer, blood clotting… these all came to mind. I got up from the computer and went to listen carefully. And then I went to my bathroom. My shampoo have five kinds of paraben in it. My two different types of body lotions had multiple forms of paraben as well. I got rid of them. Trash. Not a moment’s hesitation.

Why? Well, one of the facts Dr. Oz shared is that in one research study, 19 of 20 women diagnosed with breast cancer had significant levels of paraben in their breast tissue. I will hunt down the research and share it soon. For now, here is a summary of content from Dr. Oz with the link to the story at the end:

Flushed Away

We all know about industrial pollution and climate change, but there’s a new threat to the environment much closer to home – pharmaceutical  and personal care product pollution (PPCP). Experts are increasingly worried that marine life across America is showing us the harm its doing to our planet and ourselves.

 

What’s Happening to the Environment?

In river basins around the country, the United States Geological Survey has found fish with both female and male sex organs. Intersex frogs are also popping up all over. And experts have found evidence of chemicals called endocrine disruptors, such as atrazine (an herbicide) and Bisphenol-A (BPA) in the country’s water supplies.

 

What are Endocrine Disruptors? 

These chemicals alter the actions of hormones in our body, which can hurt us in 2 ways. First, they can block our hormones from acting as they normally would, and, secondly, they can act like hormones triggering effects that may include early onset puberty in adolescents.  

 

What’s Happening to Us?

Breast cancer rates are increasing, girls are entering puberty earlier, sperm counts and testosterone levels are falling drastically, and certain genital abnormalities are on the rise.

 

What Should We Watch Out For?

Though the evidence is not definitive, experts fear that products we are introducing into our environment could be to blame, and they are urging us to decrease the use of certain chemicals. Here’s what to look for:

 

Bisphenol-A (BPA)You may have heard about BPA, the chemical used to make hard plastics, line cans, and create carbonless receipts. It’s proven to raise the risk of breast cancer in rats and the FDA has raised an alarm about the potential harm BPA can cause; Connecticut even banned its use  in children’s products.

 

Ninety-three percent of us have BPA in our bodies. We live with it, and we excrete it when we go to the bathroom, sending the chemical into the environment.

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Phthalates

These difficult-to-pronounce ingredients help fragrance linger on the body after you have applied a lotion or body cream to your skin. They’re also found in toys, floor coverings, detergent, soaps, nail polish, and shampoos. Unfortunately, they mimic the hormone estrogen and have been linked to reproductive problems in rodents, such as lower testosterone and fetal malformation. Often they are not listed on beauty products, so the best rule of thumb is to avoid any products with fragrance.

 

Parabens

Found in moisturizing shampoos and body lotions, parabens are the most widely used preservatives in the beauty product industry, and they also act similar to estrogen in our bodies. One study found parabens in the breast cancer tissue of 19 out of 20 women studied; experts worry there could be a connection.

 

Use these chemicals as a litmus test for a healthy product. If you see them listed on the label (often as methylparaben, butylparaben, or propylparaben), it shows that the manufacturer is not concerned about limiting exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

 

Leftover Prescription Medicine

The medication we take ends up in our water supply in 1 of 2 ways. We secrete it in our urine (which we can’t control), but many of us also flush unused medication down the toilet, contributing to the rising amount of pharmaceutical pollution found in our water supply. In 2008, the Associated Press found that dozens of pharmaceuticals end up in our water supplies, and eventually, in our tap water. That’s because water treatment plants are designed to neutralize biological hazards, such as bacteria, but not pollutants such as antibiotics. Scientists are now discovering bacteria in the wild that are not only resistant to antibiotics, they can actually live off them.

 

What Can You Do?

  • Drink water from stainless steel bottles
  • Avoid plastics with the numbers 3, 6, and 7 on the bottom
  • Never heat plastic in the microwave (even if it says it is microwave safe)
  • Choose frozen and fresh produce over canned
  • Use BPA-free baby bottles
  • Avoid any products that contain fragrances; opt for those that get their scent from essential oils
  • Stay away from parabens
  • Choose products that are paraben- and phthalate-free
  • Dispose of leftover medication by throwing it in the trash with coffee grinds or cat litter (to keep harmful medications from being picked from the trash), return the unused portion to your pharmacy, or go online to find your local hazardous waste disposal facility.”

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/flushed-away?page=2 

 

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Personal control… the ups and downs as illustrated by Dr. Oz advice

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

April 4, 2012

In the research I discussed in my last post, I noted that there are different styles, so to speak, for predicting how we might want to communicate about our health. The personal control folks believe that their personal behaviors determine how genes relate to health. The participants who fit this style did not want to much communicate about their health. In fact, they were least likely to want to talk about their conditions. Perhaps they believe they have everything under ‘their control’. But what if not talking means that they miss a chance to prevent a poor health outcome?

Here is an example. On Dr. Oz today, he was giving advice about reducing fat in various parts of the body. He advised in one case to use red clover tea. He did not add that it should NOT be used if you are taking Coumadin/Warfarin–a blood-thinning medication. It interacts with the medication and can cause excessive bleeding. Someone in the facebook exchange about the advice noted this important fact.

Others noted that no one should take anything suggested by Dr. Oz without  first consulting a physician. And so, the idea of personal control does not mean we should NOT talk about our health. In fact, in trying to have control over our health, we need to be sure that the advice we think makes sense for us fits based on our pesonal health history and current medications and therapies.

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What is ‘negative labeling’ of genetically modified foods?

Monday, February 6th, 2012

February 6, 2012

My three favorite food groups are salsa, salsa, and more salsa. I prefer to have a beautiful garden of fresh tomatoes and onions and peppers to pluck and prepare my own salsa. But I don’t. So I use Green Mountain Gringo Salsa, the ‘hot’ variety. And I am forever happy when Dr. Oz talks about healthy eating and I find that my salsa qualifies. It has some sea salt in it but that’s the last ingredient in the list of fresh vegetables.

And then there is the message, ‘No Genetically Modified Ingredients’. I think they mean to say, ‘No Genetically Engineered Ingredients’. I think that because what I believe is true about the salsa I love is that the ingredients have not been genetically altered with the DNA of one organism combined with another. No salmon in the tomatoes, for example. [read about this here:   http://www.pbs.org/wnet/dna/pop_genetic_gallery/index.html ].

This method of informing consumers about GM content in food is called negative labeling — it tells us something isn’t present. In cases where there is no ‘negative label,’ we can reach the conclusion that there is such content in the food. We don’t know what. We don’t know how much. But we also don’t know based on any systematic research conducted over time whether we need to know.

 

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Consumer Reports and Apple Juice: Why Did Dr. Besser Apologize to Dr. Oz?

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

December 11, 2011

Not long ago, near the end of September,  I reflected on the debate that took place between Dr. Besser and Dr. Oz about apple juice. It was a chance to consider the meaning of evidence when reports appear about the safety of food or other substances. I noted that I would have appreciated it if Dr. Besser had spent more time talking about why the evidence was of poor quality and less time attacking Dr. Oz.

Well, new data is in. Dr. Besser apologized to Dr. Oz and aimed his criticism at the FDA where data about arsenic in applie juice had been piling up for a number of years. A new study released by Consumer Reports added to that data. Dr. Oz gives tips about the amount of apple juice that should be safe for children at different ages to drink. It is clear that all of us need to keep asking for answers to the question: how did the science reach that conclusion? When we ask, someone just might listen and try to give a more valid answer…

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Weighing in — what’s the debate about Dr. Oz and the apple juice story really tell us?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

September 21, 2011

All has been quiet on the talking about health front. I am in the midst of teaching the undergraduate class about designing health messages at Penn State, so it is odd that I don’t find my way here more often. But in the fury of the debate over the Dr. Oz show about apple juice. [go here to read and listen to the debate if you want more information: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/arsenic-apple-juice], I had to make time to add a few thoughts.

First, in favor of Dr. Oz — his show entertains us and informs us at the same time. We do have to remember that someone has to pay the bills for the show, so the entertainment quality has to be there. It is that simple.

The positive things about a show like Dr. Oz is that it can arouse public passions about scientific issues and lead to health advocacy. It may increase healthy behaviors and improve our vocabulary when it comes to talking about health and the science of health.

But on the negative side–it can be confusing and contribute to inaccurate understanding. It may arouse public passions but these can be misdirected.

The apple juice show and related debate illustrates both. The headline for the page above and the text beneath illustrates this reality. What is an “extensive national study”? According to the text, it means “dozens of samples” from “three different cities”. That is neither extensive nor a nationally representative sample.

How was the study conducted? Even with the several dozen samples, there is much room for the approach to vary. Did the tester shake the apple juice before drawing a sample? That might be important in terms of how the contents in the apple juice are distributed through the liquid. Did the tester take a sample from the bottom of the juice container or the top? Did the tester take more than a single sample of juice from each of the containers tested? Inquiring minds want to know…

But instead of focusing on specific and direct questions to guide our understanding, the backlash focused on name-calling. Skimming the contents of various letters from companies represented on the show and the Food & Drug Administration–FDA–“irresponsible” might be the most frequently leveled charge. Dr. Besser calls the Dr. Oz show “fear-mongering”. Watch this exchange:

I give credit to Dr. Oz for remaining calm and answering the charges.

But I wanted to know more about organic and inorganic arsenic levels, and other issues such as I raised above. I wanted to know less about Dr. Besser’s “upset”…

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O-meg-a… How to talk about nutrition and omega 3?

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

August 17, 2011

As my husband completed his annual check-up this year, the doctor adivsed him to increase his intake of omega 3. So my ears perked up when Dr. Oz talked about the supplement [ http://www.drozfans.com/dr-ozs-advice/dr-oz-omega-3-vs-omega-6-the-big-o-know-your-omegas/].

As with all supplements, it can be challenging to judge products and make informed decisions about their use. And this is not exception. There is a great example of this in http://www.omegavia.com/dr-oz-omega3-supplements/ where a nutritionist gives a different point of view than Dr. Oz gave about omega 3.

This is what I appreciated about this summary.

First, it does not present a recommendation that is EITHER — OR… Instead, it carefully describes omega 3 options. As a result, I am left feeling better informed about how to judge products containing omega 3.

Second, it provides research summaries, including the citations to the scientific articles that support the discussion. I was able to search out some of the work and get even better informed about omega 3. This helps me be a better consumer of this supplement and gives me confidence to talk to my husband about using omega 3…

 

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What did Dr. Oz say about genes and health, and what did his guest doctor say about viruses causing cancer that left me talking to the TV–and not in a happy voice?

Friday, February 4th, 2011

February 4, 2011

Aieeeeeeeee. Dr. Oz had some visiting doctors on his show again today. As they were wrapping up some of the discussion, Dr. Oz said, “Genes load the gun… The environment pulls the trigger… I want you to remember that.” What?! We have discussed the importance of family health history in this forum before. So the role of genetics is one that is an important topic when talking about health.

But I wonder how many viewers really got the idea that it was family health history they should be thinking about with his expression–“Genes load the gun.” This is an old metaphor for the role of genes for health and has not been very effective. Add to that, the conversation that Dr. Oz was having about genetic mutations on the show. It all got mushed together…

“The environment pulls the trigger.. I want you to remember that.” Really? What does it mean? Again, the meaning of environment in this metaphor has many interpretations. Environment for most people is about where they live, the climate, the neighborhood, pollution… those things all matter when it comes to our health and interact with our family health history. But environment includes our personal behavior and our social environment–friends, family, and culture. What we eat, for example, is part of the ‘environment’ that our genes live in… But I am not confident that this meaning is clear when talking about genes and health with this metaphor… 

Then there was the conversation about viruses–that cause cancer. HPV was one of the two examples discussed. I think that this also was not a good way to discuss the issue. If I have cervical cancer, you cannot ‘catch’ it from me. Cervical cancer is not a virus that can be passed from one woman to another. Cervical cancer is often caused by the lesions that form from genital warts caused by HPV–the humanpapilloma virus. So there is a virus that causes a condition that may be the cause of cancer…and not just cervical cancer but also penile cancer and throat cancer and head and neck cancers… So we may pass a virus between us that leads to genital warts that sometimes do not heal and may cause some changes in our cells and become cancer…

So let’s focus on understanding that increases our health literacy and not shorthand expressions that don’t… And let’s look toward spring and the daffodils that will replace the frozen icy tundra in my woods today…

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Why did Dr. Oz introduce Dr. Nemeh on his show today?

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

February 2, 2011

Well, with all the winter weather slamming the nation, I thought a picture to remind us of spring was in order…

Dr. Oz discussed healing through faith on the show today [http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/man-faith-healer-pt-1]. This is one of my favorite topics in health communication. Dr. Oz introduced Issam Nemeh who was very comfortable answering all kinds of questions. For example, “Couldn’t the lung mass have really been a virus that cleared up on its own?” “A biopsy showed it to be a mass… It was there and then it wasn’t.”

My favorite phrase used several times during the show by several people, including the host and the guest–“it isn’t ‘either’ — ‘or’. It can be both” They were referring to…healing through faith and Western medicine…working together.

In ‘Talking about health’, Tina Harris tells the story of her brother when he was young and the years that her family dealt with his breathing difficulties. Her brother had many hospitalizations and saw many doctors over almost five years. During all of that time, they prayed for a healing of Ken. Then, the family found a doctor who shared their faith. The family prayed with him. The comfort they had based on the shared faith guided them to feel comfortable with scheduling a surgery with the doctor, believing that God would use the doctor’s own faith and skill to improve their son’s health. Then, the miracle they had been praying for happened. Ken was healed. He no longer needed surgery…and as Tina said, her brother sings the Lord’s praises every week in church…

Tina and I have explored the topic of the role of religious faith for beliefs about genes and health. We find, of course, that some people do not believe in God. Religious faith is a strongly held value. In a nation founded on religious freedom and among citizens who largely claim to be religious, openly declaring one’s own lack of religious faith is not a declaration likely to be done with little thought behind it. But expressing belief in God is also not a declaration done with little thought, and finding a way to make a space for either in conversations about health is important…to health and healing…

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What did Dr. OZ say about stress today?

Monday, January 24th, 2011

January 24, 2011

Dr. Oz talked about heart attacks on his show today. He emphasized things we can do to manage our risk for ourselves. He talked about the risk for women as well as men. One of the issues that he emphasized was ‘stress.’ He noted that stress is a big contributor to heart disease. He has talked about this in terms of our diet before http://whyhealthcommunication.com/whc_blog/?p=328  I have talked about Dr. Oz referring to stress before on this blog .http://whyhealthcommunication.com/whc_blog/?p=236 

This time, I want to applaud the very concrete suggestions that Dr. Oz gave us for handling stress. He said, “Have two social conversations each day.” And, “Have one social outing each week.”  This is very useful for us. How often do we find ourselves stressed with feelings that there is ‘no wait out.’ Then we talk to a friend or a colleague about a new movie coming out, or our passion for a sport, or our love for our children. Even five minutes, and some of that stress melts away. And, yes, as impossible as it seems when we feel stressed, having a social outing–a walk at the city park or in the mall when it is too cold outdoors, lunch at Subway’s or each other’s home, or going to see that new movie–everything looks and feels different afterward. So thumbs up to Dr. Oz for concrete ideas that we all can do to manage our stress…

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Why does Grandma’s green bean casserole get a failing grade from Dr. Oz?

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

November 23, 2010

It’s that time of year again. The time when family and friends gather to eat together… with all kinds of traditions coming to the table. And when I can count on at least one person calling me ‘the food police’ either directly to my face or in a more subtle way, “Watch out, the food police have arrived.” Subtle, yes?118_1818

I find that talking about food, nutrition, and healthy eating is one of the most difficult topics to discuss with family and friends. Especially during the holidays. I loved it when Dr. Oz provided an example of ‘A’ through ‘F’ graded categories of green beans on his show this week. The best grade went to fresh green beans which earned an ‘A’. Next came frozen green beans, earning a ‘B’. Then there were canned green beans, netting a ‘C’ grade. The ‘D’ grade was for processed green beans. We’ve all seen the three bean salad in a can, for example. Looking at the label, one quickly sees how many things got added to that can besides green beans and water. And then there was the ‘F’ grade assigned to processed green beans cooked into nearly unrecognizable casseroles with other highly processed ingredients, such as canned mushroom soup with enough salt content to last a week, and processed onions that do NOT look like onions even after floating in the casserole bowl with enough moisture to plump anything that has any chance of coming back to life if only enough water is added.

So, no, food police I am not. I just like fresh green beans, fresh cranberries, a fresh green salad, freshly baked bread, and freshly baked pies… even a fresh turkey when it is an option. I still may overeat, but I won’t feel like a chemical factory has been preserved inside my stomach when I am done. Cheers to giving thanks and enjoying the holiday with friends and family…

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