Dr. Oz, Caught With Your Hand in the Cookie Jar?

Written by: Emily Russo, MS, RD, CDN

Putting the pieces back together - the disconnect between research studies and how they are presented in the media.

Who can you trust? Most people don’t have time or access to read through new research studies. They rely on trusted experts to provide important updates. But how do you know their synopsis is accurate? Here I explain how one recent headline may have missed the mark and attempt to put the pieces back together, so to speak.

 

 

The pandemic has not been easy on anyone. As a mom of two, I’ve had my own challenges.

Thankfully, the parenting community has been very kind to one another. I don’t feel judged when my kids watch too much TV, or if I make peanut butter sandwiches for lunch over and over again.

Ok, so maybe I mix in some of Ann’s delish PB&J Breakfast Bars, but you get the point. It’s like an unspoken code – we are doing the best we can.

When I see headlines that attempt to shame parents, especially in regard to their food choices, it hits home personally and professionally.  

So, it may not surprise you that the March 2021 Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen Medical Advice column, syndicated in our local paper, and entitled “Teach – and feed – your children well*,” didn’t sit right with me.

THE HEADLINE – ASSUMPTIONS

The writers attempt to translate the results of two scientific research studies into simple, usable advice for parents regarding food choices for their children. However, the result is they make assumptions about the studies’ results and include advice that is not supported by the studies themselves.

Further, I felt it put pressure on parents to uphold an unattainable standard with no guidance on how to do so.

Exaggerating results of scientific studies for a catchy headline is a common issue across many media outlets these days. The silver lining is that it gives me an opportunity to point out how health-centric headlines – as benign as they may seem – can be misleading.

Let’s start by looking at the advice that Drs. Oz and Roizen give based on the two studies.

THE STUDIES – A DEEPER DIVE

They clearly state that the studies directly relate to kids’ (and parents) food choices and very clearly provide advice on food choices. “Feed your kids whole, high-fiber foods, largely unprocessed, with no added sugars or syrups, only 100% whole grains and lean proteins (max one serving of red meat a week and no processed red meats).”

To begin with, neither of the studies referenced in the Oz/Roizen article addresses topics of parenting, feeding children, or teaching kids.

In the first study, non-HDL cholesterol (what some refer to as ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels were recorded at various life stages starting in adolescence.

The second study (McNamara et al) was done on mice to determine if different diets or exercise regimens as young mice had an impact on the gut microbiome as adult mice.

Results of the first study suggested adolescents who had higher levels of non-HDL cholesterol may be at greater risk for heart disease in mid-adulthood. Since the authors highlight that 60-80% of cholesterol levels are steeped in genetics, ultimately, this paper was a call to pediatricians to screen for risk factors of heart disease, with a primary focus on family history and genetics.

They do not delve into what impacts the other 20-40%, which includes diet, exercise, and stress to name a few.

The second study did find that a higher-fat diet in juvenile mice resulted in a significant decrease of one of the microbesin adult mice. But, remember, this study was done in mice in a laboratory! To generalize the results to human children who live in the real world is a big stretch.

THEIR ADVICE – A DISCONNECT

To complicate matters even further, Drs. Oz and Roizen insinuate that some people may need to take probiotics lifelong. But, probiotics weren’t even a part of the study. They were only mentioned in a call to future studies to examine the potential effects of probiotics.

Drs. Oz and Roizen go on to give the aforementioned dietary advice to parents to “Feed your kids no added sugar or syrups…only 100% whole grains, and max one serving red meat each week. Then they’ll have a fighting chance to avoid America’s epidemic of diabetes and obesity.”

Not only is this fear mongering, but it’s not what the actual studies are about. And, though some messages are reasonable, such as “feed your kids whole, high fiber foods,” this is also not related to the studies they are referencing.

KEY TAKEAWAY

I’m not the first person to fact check Dr. Oz, or other icons, nor will I be the last.

Meaning, I am simply reminding you of what you probably already know. That just because you hear something from a celebrity, doesn’t make it true. And, just because a nutrition claim may sound plausible or even evidenced-based, it doesn’t mean it has anything to do with the studies referenced.

Oz/Roizen may not endorse the foods I have in my house. We love this Crunchy Top Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal made with brown sugar. We even enjoy making bacon on the weekends.

I don’t feel guilty about that and neither should you. In fact, exposing children to all kinds of foods helps normalize their relationship with it.

And, in case you haven’t heard it enough today…to all of you parenting in this pandemic – you are rock stars!

 

 

CONTACT ME

I hope this perspective was helpful. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at  emily@fountainavenuekitchen.com, and Ask Emily your food and nutrition-related questions. I love hearing from all of you.

 

References

Armstrong MK, Fraser BJ, Hartiala O, et al. Association of Non–High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Measured in Adolescence, Young Adulthood, and Mid-Adulthood With Coronary Artery Calcification Measured in Mid-Adulthood. JAMA Cardiol. Published online January 27, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2020.7238.

Jansen, E, Mulkens S, Emond Y, Jansen A. From the Garden of Eden to the land of plenty.Restriction of fruit and sweets intake leads to increased fruit and sweets consumption in children. Appetite. May 2008. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2008.04.012

McNamara MP, Singleton JM, Cadney MD, Ruegger PM, Borneman J, Garland T. Early-life effects of juvenile Western diet and exercise on adult gut microbiome composition in mice. J Exp Biol. 2021 Feb 25;224(Pt 4):jeb239699. doi: 10.1242/jeb.239699. PMID: 33431595; PMCID: PMC7929929.

*Here is a link to the article as it appeared in the March 5, 2021 edition of LNP. A login is required, so it may not be easily accessed by all.

 

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Comments

  1. Meaghen Neumann

    This was so helpful! It is so hard to be a parent these days and make sure we are feeding our kids to the best of our abilities…thank you so much for deconstructing this Emily!

    Reply