Daytime TV Doc’s Diagnosis Is (Still) Fear

Saturated fats aren’t always associated with being healthy. But have you ever wondered why we think that way? Perhaps it’s because food scolds have done a better job fearmongering about saturated fats than educating us about their minimal impact when consumed in moderation.

Proving our point, celebrity doctor and talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz penned his prescription yesterday for happiness and longevity, by scaring his make-believe patients away from eating meat, cheese, and butter—common sources of animal-based fats. According to Oz, these commonly consumed foods are loaded with depression-inducing saturated fats that will ultimately stop their beating hearts:

Saturated and trans fats don’t just menace your blood vessels and heart. They go after your brain, too, boosting bodywide inflammation and gunking up the whisper-thin lining of your arteries. The depression connection? Turns out that this fragile lining produces a potent ‘get happy’ brain chemical called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). When you chow down on bad fats, your arteries turn down their BDNF production, say the researchers behind this recent ground-breaking study.

Contrary to Dr. Oz’s dated medical advice, several research investigations have found no link between the consumption of saturated fats and the buildup of arterial plaque. According to a Fall 2008 report in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons:

[F]or decades, saturated fat was incorrectly believed to be the cause of arterial plaque. This is clearly not the case, as identified in a landmark article published in 1994. Investigators found that plaque contained more than 10 different compounds, none of which was related to saturated fat. Other independent investigations confirmed this finding.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Dr. Oz offering medical opinions that don’t meet the smell test. Here are some other examples:

In a segment titled “10 Major Agers,” Dr. Oz advised viewers to throw out anything containing high fructose corn syrup. We’ve seen plenty of wicked mythmaking about this corn sweetener before (and an apology from one scientist for creating false conventional wisdom), but this one was a real tornado of misinformation.

Dr. Oz flat-out rejected the idea that “a calorie is a calorie” no matter what food it is in. Based on that logic, we can assume he thinks a pound of feathers weighs less than a pound of bricks.

Oz is also convinced that certain foods and household wares are chock-full of a “group of secret saboteurs” he calls “obesogens”—chemicals that make people fat. Taking this advice seriously, it’s probably best to avoid using the water faucet, microwave, shower, and nonstick frying pans. Ditto for microwave popcorn, farmed salmon, bottled water, and canned vegetables.

Doctors like Mehmet Oz (and others who’ve moved their practices to daytime television) are a good source of entertainment, but it’s always best to leave diagnoses and prescriptions to your primary-care physician—a professional who knows your personal history, your body, and what it will take to keep you healthy and fit.

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