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Dr Oz Swallows A Bitter Pill at the US Senate

>> Monday, June 23, 2014

It's about time that the crackdown on Dr Oz rises to the next level.  Following publications by several medical journals speaking out against Dr Oz's false health claims, the US Senate is now taking Dr Oz to task on his 'miracle' weight loss solutions that he touts on his TV show.

At a Senate hearing addressing over the counter diet supplements and products which Dr Oz attended as a panel member, he was openly and harshly confronted by Senator Claire McCaskill, a strong advocate for consumer protection.

She says to Dr Oz (and the entire video is well worth watching):

"I am concerned that you are melding medical advice, news, and entertainment, in a way that harms consumers.... I get that you do a lot of good on your show, but I don't get why you need to say this stuff, because you know it's not true."

The 'Dr Oz' effect is known as the most powerful sales pitch in the diet industry - the problem is that most of the products he touts do not have scientific evidence to back them up.  Some, such as the HCG diet, are dangerous.

Dr Oz's shameless promotion of products without scientific evidence of benefit (and some with potential harm) is completely opposite to the appropriate behavior of a medical doctor.  Our job as physicians is to critically assess scientific evidence, and only to recommend a treatment if there is evidence to prove that it is effective, and that the benefits outweigh the risks.

We take the Oath of Hippocrates on the day we become doctors, with two of the primary tenets being to prescribe medicines for the good of our patients, and never to do harm.  Oz needs to take a long, hard look at himself in the mirror, and reflect on this oath that he committed to upholding years ago.

You can read about my thoughts about Dr Oz's 'superfoods' here,  and Dr Oz's claims about Garcinia cambogia here.

Follow me on twitter: @drsuepedersen © 2014


Do Vitamins Prevent Heart Disease or Cancer?

>> Monday, June 16, 2014

Given that about half of (American) adults use some kind of dietary supplement, and about a third take multivitamins with the idea of improving overall health, an important question to ask is whether these supplements are actually doing any good - or whether they could be doing any harm. 

As such, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently released a recommendation statement in the Annals of Internal Medicine on this issue, with the specific goal of answering whether vitamins prevent heart disease or cancer. 

Upon review of available data, their conclusions are as follows: 

1.  Unfortunately, there is not enough evidence (clinical study) to assess benefits or harms of supplements of single vitamins, multivitamins, or minerals to prevent heart disease or cancer, except for beta-carotene and vitamin E. 

2.  Beta-carotene supplements are associated with an increased risk of cancer in smokers, and does not decrease the risk of heart disease. 

3.  Vitamin E has no effect on heart disease, cancer, or death rates. 

It’s important to remember that there are still vitamins that are recommended for certain populations (eg preconception or pregnant women, patients who have had bariatric surgery).  It’s also important to note that there is evidence for some vitamins for other reasons (eg vitamin D and calcium for bone health).

However, it is a sorry state of affairs in terms of what is still not known about vitamins and whether there are any benefits to heart disease/cancer risk – or harms – to the wide array of vitamins that are available on store shelves.  

There is a great summary for patients and general public from the USPSTF here, if you want to read more. 

Follow me on twitter: @drsuepedersen © 2014


Portion Distortion - Does Bowl Size Affect How Much Your Kids Eat?

>> Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We know that downsizing dinnerware can be helpful for weight loss in adults (see my randomized controlled clinical trial results here).  Do kids response to dishware cues in the same way adults do?

An interesting new pair of studies by Dr Wansink and colleagues, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, looks to answer that question.  In the first study, 69 preschoolers were enrolled in a trial where they were randomized to receive either a small (8oz) or large (16oz) cereal bowl, and asked how much cereal they wanted for a morning snack.  The kids given the larger bowl requested almost twice as much cereal than those presented with the smaller bowl (in parallel with the difference in the size between the two bowls).

In the second similar study, 18 school aged kids were given the 8oz bowl for breakfast on one day and the 16 oz bowl on another day, and asked how much cereal and milk they wanted for breakfast.  The kids consumed 52% more, and wasted 26% more (what they couldn’t eat), when served in the larger bowl.

These studies teach us that just like for adults, tableware size is important for helping to guide kids in terms of how much is appropriate to eat.  This doesn’t come as a surprise, given that portion sizes have increased by 300-400% compared to what they were three decades ago.  The increase in plate sizes is thought to be one contributor to this portion distortion - what used to be a dinnerplate is the millenium’s lunchplate, with a supersized dinner set present in many restaurants and homes.

We are looking at The Diet Plate ™’s Kids’ Plate right now in a clinical trial through the Alberta Children’s Hospital to see if these plates and bowls are helpful for kids who struggle with their weight – stay tuned for the results! 

Follow me on twitter: @drsuepedersen © 2014


Iceland - Where the 'Skyr's The Limit!

>> Monday, June 2, 2014

On a recent trip to Iceland, I was astounded and amazed by not only the landscape (lava and ash-studded glaciers, over top of volcanoes, right next door to green fields and breathtaking waterfalls), but also by the food culture that this little country enjoys.

First off, many foods that are eaten are locally farmed – not an easy feat for such a northerly climate.  Iceland’s solution is rather ingenious -  the country is packed with greenhouses, heated using the geothermal (volcanic) heat that lies just under the surface of the ground.  Cool.  (or hot, as it were)

Root vegetable salads abounded – freshly shredded celery root salad was my favorite – also beet salads, and greens of all varieties.

The other theme of the Icelandic diet is the enjoyment of food that is rich in protein.  Locally caught salmon abounded at every meal – smoked salmon at breakfast, gravad laks (cured salmon with mustard dill sauce, an inheritance from Iceland’s historical ties with Denmark), and salmon options on pretty much every dinner menu. 

But my very favorite source of protein in the Icelandic diet was skyr – a form of Icelandic yogurt that is super high in protein (even surpassing most brands of greek yogurt).  A 65 calorie serving of skyr is packed with no less than 10 grams of protein.  Many grocery stores have ‘Skyr Bars’ where you can choose your favorite skyr flavor, and then top it with fresh fruit or fiber-rich cereals.

And if you want to buy it to eat later, there is no shortage of selections in the regular fridge section.

So the natural next question – where can I get skyr at home?!  While it is available in some countries (I have encountered it in Denmark before), it is hard to find on the other side of the Pond.  There are a few cities in Canada that have a few places that sell it, but hopefully the trend will catch on and it will soon become mainstream! 

Until then, as a country where there is no McDonald’s (you read that right) and where bottled water is frowned upon (why buy water when the tap water comes straight from glaciers?!), I for one hope to get back to Iceland for another visit someday - the nature, the delicious food, and - above all - the wonderful people, beckon!

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen © 2014



I am excited that you have arrived at my site, and I hope you are too - consider this the first step towards a Healthier New You!! As a medical doctor, Endocrinologist, and obesity specialist, I am absolutely passionate about helping people with weight management. Though there is certainly no magic cure for obesity, there IS a successful treatment plan out there for you - it is all about understanding the elements that contribute to your personal weight struggle, and then finding the treatment plan that suits your needs and your lifestyle. The way to finding your personal solution is to learn as much as you can about obesity: how our toxic environment has shaped us into an overweight society; the diversity of contributors to obesity; and what the treatment options out there are really all about. Knowledge Is Power!!

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