February 4 2012

Quack Alert: Dr. Oz on Bisphenol A

Angela Logomasini

Television personalities that advise us on personal health—mental or physical—have dominated daytime television for some time now. It’s great when these shows offer helpful, positive advice.  So why then do they have to ruin it by getting political and spouting junk or incomplete science?  Dr. Oz is the perfect example.

Looking at his website there are many very positive, motivational items from exercise recommendations to urging people to eat “super foods” like blueberries, to controlling serious risks related to reproductive behavior.  Cheers to Dr. Oz for sharing that information. 

But then he ruins it with shows composed of junk science.  The most recent one scares people away from eating healthy foods that come in canned containers based on unfounded and hyped risks related to Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in resins that line cans.

 Dr. Oz’s “expert” on the topic is an activist from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  EWG isn’t a unbiased public health group, they are a political activist group that plays fast and loose with the facts to push regulations.  They peddle plenty junk science, including issuing an annual report every year that discourages consumers from eating and feeding their children such good foods as apples, peaches, celery, and even blueberries!  Instead, their latest report suggests we should stock up on onions, corn, and pineapples!  Sure, onions, etc., are good, but try sending your kids to school with an onion in his or her lunchbox.  

Now, EWG suggests that we avoid canned vegetables and soups.  But this packaging offers a great way to ensure that busy moms and dads—as well as the rest of us—can always have ready-to-eat veggies handy.  Dr. Oz should not let phony BPA risks undermine the role that canned fruits and vegetables play in fighting serious risks associated with poor diets. See this catalog of articles and this paper for more details on why you do not have to worry about BPA.

Fortunately, there are some moms out there that have not fallen for the hype:

“At the end of the episode, Dr. Oz encouraged his viewers to eat frozen or fresh (not canned) foods and to feed those foods to their family. But seasonal, fresh foods are not always available to those of us in the northern states -- and they are not a cost-effective option for all families. I don't appreciate Dr. Oz "stirring the soup pot" on BPA.”

A nonprofit called Produce for Better Health Foundation offers much more valuable advice to moms, dads, and everyone in between.  In a nutshell, PBH explains.

“Each day Americans are bombarded by dozens of conflicting messages about food. Sometimes health professionals can't even agree on what we should eat for optimal health. One thing they can agree on: Eat more fruits and vegetables. The scientific evidence is clear, and overwhelming. These foods can help maintain a healthy weight, and help reduce the risk of diet-related chronic diseases – such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer. All that, and they come in such colorful, varied and delicious packages!”

As PBH notes, healthy cancer-fighting foods come in many different packages, canned soup along with canned veggies and fruits included. Dr. Oz’s anti-BPA hype might discourage eating of canned vegetables and healthy, low-calorie canned soups.  Given the convenience and affordability of these packaged foods, Oz’s advice could contribute to cancer rate increases by reducing overall fruit and vegetable consumption. 

Dr. Oz also doesn’t ever consider why BPA is used in the first place. BPA-based resins that line food containers to prevent development of deadly pathogens like E coli.  If his contribution to the hype helps produce bans on BPA, will Dr. Oz step up and apologize if substitutes don’t work as well and people get sick? 

Apparently, the sage advice for good health—eat lots of fruit and vegetables and whole grains, exercise, and keeping weight down—doesn’t attract as many viewers as does the junk claims and the blame-game (blame chemicals not personal lifestyle choices) approach.

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