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Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegetarianism in the News

October 1, 2011 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Dispelling Food Myths in the Land of Oz

Like so many Americans, we're confused about what constitutes a healthy diet. We've been told by nutrition professionals to cut back on red meat, salt, eggs, fat (especially trans fat), and drink non-fat milk and some red wine.

"Want to get healthy? Then forget about diet soda and low-fat foods. Instead, tuck into some eggs, whole milk, salt, fat, nuts, wine, chocolate, and coffee," says Dr. Mehmet Oz, celebrity physician.

If Dr. Oz says so, it must be true. The famed physician, who reaches millions of viewers on television, unveiled the "The Oz Diet" in the September 12, 2011 issue of Time as part of the publication's "Special Nutrition Issue." The article was subtitled "No more myths. No more fads. What you should eat-- and why."

Dr. Mehmet Oz Dr. Oz, whose specialty is cardiothoracic surgery, has become somewhat of a health guru with appearances on television and in books and magazine articles. What becomes problematic is when the doctor adds to the confusion of the American public by taking positions that are contrary to ideas presented to them by recognized medical authorities.

Fats are not all bad
In looking at fats, Dr. Oz states, "But fats are by no means universally bad. Monosunsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are actually recommended for good health. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats--canola oil and olive oil--have been found to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and raise HDL cholesterol (the good kind), thus reducing the risks of atherosclerosis and heart disease."

To Oz the only bad fat is trans-fat, which has been gradually removed from most foods. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic is down on all fats, not just trans fats. In his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Dr. Esselstyn, who has been instrumental in helping reverse heart disease in his patients, preaches "no added oil" in their foods.

In his book Esselstyn describes Reverend William Valentine, a patient who suffered from angina and wanted to avoid bypass surgery. The reverend was following what he believed was a heart-healthy diet of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. When the doctor questioned him about any items not mentioned, the patient revealed "he was consuming 'heart healthy' olive oil at every lunch and dinner and in salads." Valentine was told to give up the olive oil. "He did--and within seven weeks his angina had completely disappeared," says Esselstyn.

Eggs and meat not "radioactive"
"Eggs and red meat, while dangerous if you eat them in excess, came to be seen as radioactive," Oz writes. "Most physicians, however, are now comfortably recommending one egg with the yolk per day as an inexpensive source of high-quality protein, even though a few patients do need to be pulled off the program pending blood cholesterol tests." Dr. Oz obviously is not familiar with a study by Harvard Medical School researchers who found that middle-aged men who ate seven or more eggs a week had a higher risk of earlier death. Men with diabetes who ate any eggs at all raised their risk of death, according to "Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians' Health Study," a research study published in the April 2008 edition of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Eggs He might also be aware of another study that was designed to confuse, perhaps, dupe the American public. A researcher at Wake Forest University found no connection between egg consumption and heart disease in his study, "A Review of Scientific Research and Recommendations Regarding Eggs." The author turns out to be Stephen B. Kritchevsky, PhD, who serves on the Egg Nutrition Council's Scientific Advisory Board.

Is milk a weight-loss drug?
While some health authorities view milk as "nothing less than liquid fat," Dr. Oz writes, "It's true that kids who drink a lot of whole milk drink a lot of calories, but milk can actually help control weight, since the calcium binds with fat in food digesting in your gut, meaning that you absorb less of that fat. What's more when you take all the fat out of milk, you're left with too high a concentration of natural sugars, which interacts like candy with your hormones, especially insulin."

This advice by Dr.Oz sounds similar to information in the book Calcium Key introduced in 2003. Following the publication of the book, the dairy industry announced, "Clinical studies show that people on a reduced-calorie diet who consume three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day can lose significantly more weight and more body fat than those who just cut calories." The claim was based on research by Professor Michael B. Zemel of the University of Tennessee, author of The Calcium Key: The Revolutionary Diet Discovery That Will Help You Lose Weight Faster.

Dr. Zemel was handsomely rewarded when the dairy industry licensed his research and promoted his book. As expected by nutrition experts, no one since has been able to replicate his research. In 2007 the Federal Trade Commission, responding to a challenge of this dairy fallacy by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, announced that the dairy industry decided to halt the campaign. Milk

Moderation is important
Dr. Oz preaches moderation in eating and drinking. To him 16 ounces of whole milk a day is his idea of moderation. Moderation becomes his mantra with other foods like red meat that he suggests limiting to 18 ounces a week.

To gain the full benefit of resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant in red wine, he states one would have to drink 60 liters to gain any health benefit. His recommendation is to use a resveratrol supplement as the best way to access this antioxidant. Despite his statement that one would have to drink enormous amounts of red wine to achieve any health benefits, he still advises drinking some red wine every day to raise HDL, lower LDL, and protect the arteries from cholesterol damage.

While numerous health authorities are attempting to persuade Americans to reduce sodium consumption, Dr. Oz tells readers, "Salt is another example of a demonized compound. While our hearts can't beat without it, too much sodium can increase blood pressure to dangerous levels--but only in 10% of the population with African Americans being particularly sensitive."

Salt A simple blood pressure test
Those in the other 90% can follow his recommendation to perform a simple test of checking their blood pressure after consuming salt and checking again after eating a salt-free meal. This seems like a simplistic and, perhaps, inaccurate way to determine whether one is salt sensitive. Although the doctor wisely recommends moderation with salt for everyone, he is telling most of us we need not worry about salt consumption.

Although Dr. Oz's daily food menu contains foods like Greek yogurt, quinoa, sweet potatoes, juiced greens, vegetarian chili, steel-cut oats, spinach, walnuts, and tempeh, he obviously does not embrace a low-fat vegan diet with his recommendation of red meat, dairy, and eggs. "Eat in moderation; choose foods that look like they did when they came out of the ground (remember, there are no marshmallow trees); be an omnivore (there are multiple food groups for a reason); and get some exercise," Dr. Oz concludes.

We've decided to take Dr. Oz's article with a grain of salt. We found ourselves thinking that he is a pitchman for olive and canola oil manufacturers, egg producers, dairy associations, and the salt industry instead of being a learned expert who is dispelling the myths about food and nutrition. If his millions of fans take his advice seriously about fat, milk, eggs, and salt, they may find themselves in the operating room with the doctor preparing to crack open their chests for the next exciting bypass.

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