T.V. Schlock Doc Needs to Beef Up Science Over Scaremongering

130415_CCF_ChickenWings_picWe — and others, including the Food and Drug Administration — have hit daytime television medical commentator Mehmet Oz hard for abandoning the medical science that made his name for anti-scientific and fact-challenged scares about food and promises of miracle pills that will cure everything from the common cold to cancer. And he’s at it again, this time attacking meat, fish, milk, and eggs with help from fellow food scold and media maven Mark Bittman of the New York Times.

Dr. Oz first used his column in last month’s Success magazine to freak people out about hormones used in meat production. Before debunking the scare, it is worth noting that the not-so-good doctor didn’t even bother to get his facts right. Dr. Oz asserts:

We know that children consuming the most animal products are more likely to enter puberty seven months sooner than the group consuming the least. Scientists mainly attribute this to hormones such as estrogen and testosterone injected into cows, pigs and chickens, meant to increase weight or milk production.

That’s all very interesting, scary-sounding, and wrong. First, it is actually illegal to use hormones in pork and poultry production. Only cattle and sheep may be treated with such hormones, and the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates veterinary drugs, sets toxicology-based limits on hormone supplementation at a level that is expected to cause no effects on people eating meat from those animals. And there’s no conclusive evidence that any food causes early puberty, Oz’s oddly specific declaration to the contrary (we note that he provided no citation or reference for the claim).

Dr. Oz also hosted Bittman on his television program so the Times columnist could plug his new book, Vegan Before 6, which says we shouldn’t eat meat, fish, dairy, or eggs before dinner. We note, for starters, that Bittman has praised effusively eggs—including ones eaten at, er, breakfast—produced in a fashion acceptable to his posh sensibilities.

Inviting the latest non-scientific fad diet shill on the program is one of The Dr. Oz Show’s stocks-in-trade: In the last 6 months, Oz has sat down with a kook who thinks wheat is literally poisonous, an animal liberationist and former PETA Foundation president who thinks that veganism will somehow eliminate Alzheimer’s Disease, and others who push the dubious hypothesis that foods are just tasty crack.

So we’d say that even though he’s a crank, Bittman fits right in on Oz’s program. And as long as Bittman’s ilk find succor from the good doctor, one can expect more and more people to join a group that already includes commentators from The New Yorker and Slate in wondering if the show promotes more pseudoscience than real medicine.

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