I've heard it said that the internet is 90 percent pornography and 10 percent bad medical advice. The more I go down the rabbit hole of popular medical sites, the more I wonder if the balance is tipping away from sex. There are plenty of absolutely bat-guano crazy quasi-medical websites, some of which actually advocate violence in support of their odd ideas. Of more concern though are popular medical websites giving seemingly benign advice, much of which is wrong or so simplistic that wrong is too kind a word.
Dr. Mehmet Oz's website is popular. It doesn't get as much traffic as WebMD or MayoClinic but between his website and TV show, he has a lot of reach and influence. As I mentioned a few days back, I'm skeptical of much of what I've found so far at his website. Today I went over there and found an interesting link: 5 SURPRISING WAYS TO LIVE LONGER IN UNDER A MINUTE.
Before we explore his suggestions, let's talk a little bit about living longer. As an internist, a big part of my job is helping people live longer and better. If you want to get the most bang out of your longevity buck, there are a couple of ways to invest wisely. Most Americans die of heart disease, stroke, cancer, or accidents. Many of these deaths are preventable, and we've gotten pretty good at guiding people away from premature death. Helping people stop smoking, controlling cholesterol and blood pressure, and treating diabetes are all relatively simple, inexpensive, and effective. But these interventions require a real commitment by patients, and people are often looking for easier answers. Dr. Oz provides those answers, despite their lack or utility or veracity. According to Oz:
You can’t live forever. However, there are things you can do to live longer and in better health. Increasing longevity is much easier than you think. Here’s the really good part: all of these health habits can be accomplished in less than one minute.
First up, eat eggs. He gives a number of reasons to eat eggs, many of which are unsupported, and none of which help prevent the main causes of death in Americans. His advice: "Under-a-Minute Tip: Boil a half-dozen eggs in the beginning of the week. Eat one a day and you’re on the road to making a dramatic difference in your health." I like eggs just fine, but they are food, not medicine. As part of a healthy diet, one based mostly on plant materials, they can be just fine, but for most Americans, adding an egg-a-day to the diet will not have a dramatically good effect on health.
Next he suggests taking chromium polynicotinate to help prevent diabetes. There is little data on this dietary supplement. Most of the data available for chromium are on the related substance chromium picolinate, and those data are not terribly favorable. There are, however, strong data to support proper diet and exercise for the prevention of diabetes.
Third up, checking your heart rate. His suggestion: "Take your resting heart rate before you get out of bed every morning. If it is high or keeps going up every month, see your doctor." That's not a terribly helpful suggestion, but I'm always happy to see someone to go over cardiac health.
Next up, beets. I do like beets, especially roasted with a little salt and pepper. Many people don't think of beets, which are a great choice in trying to develop healthier eating habits. But they aren't particularly miraculous. They're just a veggie, despite Oz's claims about them "dilating blood vessels", whatever that may mean. His tip? "You can drink your beets daily in a nutrient-packed beverage that also contains carrots, parsley and apples. It’s easy and inexpensive to make." Or you could eat them as part of a balanced meal, one whose calories are supplied by different food groups in a satisfying and healthy way.
Finally, Oz reminds us that stress is bad, and that women like to hold stress in their head and face. I have no idea what, from a medical perspective, that means, but he recommends self-massage, something I could never argue against, unless it were promoted as life-saving or longevity-enhancing.
It's disappointing to see an influential and obviously bright doctor giving out platitudes rather than real medical advice. As Stan Lee apparently wrote, with great power comes great responsibility. I wish Dr. Oz would wield his power more carefully.