THE BLOG

Unjust Attacks Against Dr. Oz

04/23/2015 03:57 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2015

I have known Mehmet Oz, M.D. for over 30 years, well before he became famous on television. I am a physician specializing in nutritional interventions for chronic disease and a strong advocate of superior nutrition as the first line of attack to prevent and treat most chronic diseases. I have appeared on The Dr. Oz show and recognize that Dr. Oz does not hold the exact same viewpoints about all controversies in human nutrition that I do, but he has a huge base of knowledge, and is open-minded and willing to re-consider a position based on emerging evidence on multiple scientific and health issues. It is an asset severely lacking in many physicians.

Recently, there have been polarizing opinions brandied in the news and on the Internet about Dr. Oz. Many of our peers are defending him, while a small number of doctors prepared and publicized a recent letter to Columbia University Medical Center claiming he promotes "bad science" and should be removed from his position there. I think these attacks are unjustified and should cease.

To understand these issues, it is necessary to understand who these medical critics of Dr. Oz are and what their possible agenda is. The leading author has been linked to the GMO campaign in California, has written articles in support of Monsanto's GMOs and was a former head of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), an organization set up to support industrial stances on health issues. Other signers also had links to this organization.

Was this recent public attack orchestrated to discredit Dr. Oz and protect Monsanto against his questioning the safety of genetically-modified food? Individuals associated with ACSH generally consider everything "junk science" if it goes against their funding sources, and these are the people attacking Dr. Oz, demanding that he be reprimanded.

Doctors' positions and recommendations about drugs, procedures, surgical interventions, health and nutrition are not always based on strong scientific evidence. If you looked at the advice offered every day across America from almost every doctor, you would find that about half of his or her advice had inadequate science to support it. Medical treatments come and go. Even in the recent past, a significant number of medical treatments have been shown to be harmful or have little or no benefits when more conclusive studies became available.

We need a high degree of skepticism, but certainly the medical profession does not have a good track record of having impeccable scientific evidence to support their treatments. The facts are that decisions and recommendations have to be made on the science we have available, which most often is inadequate. In medicine today, most of what doctors regularly do is not supported by impartial science; in fact, many of today's practices have been disproven.

Prostate cancer screening with PSA testing is not proven to extend lifespan. [1] Yearly physicals are not shown in studies to have health or longevity benefits. [2] Angioplasty for stable obstructive coronary artery disease has not shown to offer reduction in future heart attacks or extend lifespan. [3] Antibiotics for bronchitis in non-smokers have shown no benefits over no treatment. [4] Sulfonylureas, as a first-line anti-diabetic medication, has not been documented to reduce heart attacks or extend lifespan. [5,6] I can go on and on, but the point is that health science evolves as more evidence is collected, and mistakes are corrected over time as better options become available.

We must always remember that all medical interventions have risk, and very little can be asserted with 100 percent certainty. For example, what looks like the best treatment choice today could be a significant cause of breast cancer in the future. No one group of doctors has all the right science on their side. We must be open to both sides of every issue, and recognize we could have been wrong in the past. If most drug treatments went head-to-head in controlled trials against well-implemented nutritional and exercise protocols used by lifestyle medicine specialists, they would likely be shown inferior for most chronic diseases, including depression, diabetes, allergies, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease.

Many big egos in the medical profession demand respect, as if their medical drugs and procedures are anointed with a high degree of scientific certainty, when the reality is most of the studies are sponsored and influenced by pharmaceutical companies. These individuals often act like they have a superior intellect to understand and adjudicate scientific claims and findings, contemptuously attacking all that they do not know with the term "quackery."

Dr. Oz's broad knowledge on so many of these controversial issues far exceeds that of most physicians. He may have supported a few products whose science was shaky, but he was quick to retract his position when better evidence became available.

Dr. Oz has stated he has no financial interest to gain from the advice and products discussed on his show. He offers heath information to educate, entertain and benefit his viewers. He looks into the claims made and throws out those without scientific support, but he is open-minded to things that sound reasonable, when the science is beginning to emerge positive. Sure, he may have made a few mistakes, being too excited about products that proved faulty, but he tries to be accurate and has a scientific research team that checks the data carefully.

I think it is important to recognize that drugs have real potential to do harm -- and what your doctor doesn't know about nutrition and healthy lifestyle can kill you, too. Dr. Oz has brought an awareness that what you eat matters, and has given people some guidance to act on -- actions they don't get at a routine medical visit.

I went to medical school at the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Oz in the early '80s. He was president of the medical school student body back then, as he pursued a joint MBA at Wharton with an M.D. at Penn. He later went on to become one of the country's top heart surgeons with multiple patents awarded for his design of surgical devices, and is an author of hundreds of scientific publications. Obviously, he is a brilliant man with huge accomplishments.

Dr. Oz has always been open to many different opinions and health alternatives, recognizing that the medical profession doesn't have all the answers. His popularity is founded not just on his charisma, but on his openness to consider multiple sides of issues, and to realize established medical opinion changes over time as more information becomes available. He is an advocate for eating better, cutting out junk food, and establishing healthy behaviors for life. He performs heart surgery while advocating that people live and eat in a manner to avoid it.

We all know that the press enjoys slinging "dirt" at successful celebrities, and the haters love to put people down for anything they can find -- but these attacks should stop.

Although Dr. Oz and I may not agree on all issues, I always expect a fair hearing, with a consideration of the evidence supporting my view. His flexibility to consider options other than drugs should be respected. He is being attacked for his open-mindedness, and for not always taking the standard medical party line. There are thousands of doctors across the country who feel he represents the modern medical profession well. I am one of them.

References:

1. Chou R, Croswell JM, Dana T, et al. Screening for prostate cancer: a review of the evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med 2011, 155:762-771.

2. Krogsboll LT, Jorgensen KJ, Gronhoj Larsen C, Gotzsche PC. General health checks in adults for reducing morbidity and mortality from disease: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012, 345:e7191.

3. Trikalinos TA, Alsheikh-Ali AA, Tatsioni A, et al. Percutaneous coronary interventions for non-acute coronary artery disease: a quantitative 20-year synopsis and a network meta-analysis. Lancet 2009, 373:911-918.

4. Smith SM, Fahey T, Smucny J, Becker LA. Antibiotics for acute bronchitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2014, 3:CD000245.

5. Pantalone KM, Kattan MW, Yu C, et al. The risk of developing coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure, and overall mortality, in type 2 diabetic patients receiving rosiglitazone, pioglitazone, metformin, or sulfonylureas: a retrospective analysis. Acta Diabetol 2009, 46:145-154.

6. Simpson SH, Majumdar SR, Tsuyuki RT, et al. Dose-response relation between sulfonylurea drugs and mortality in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a population-based cohort study. CMAJ 2006, 174:169-174.