Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Dr Smith’s Shred Diet, shredded


I recently came across something in which Dr Oz was extolling the benefits of Dr Ian Smith’s “Shred Diet”. Naturally, if Dr Oz is promoting something I tend to be suspicious. I’m also suspicious of any miracle diet books.

Looking at Dr Smith’s website, one of the first things I notice is the number of books he’s written. There are eight in total, six of which are diet books. I can’t help but wonder: if this Shred Diet is so amazing, why would he need five other books promoting equally miraculous diets? Not being willing to invest the money or time to purchase and read all of these books I can only speculate that there is nothing particularly miraculous about any of them. Sure, most people will probably lose weight if they follow the diets prescribed in any of the books but are they going to keep that weight off? Probably not. Dr Smith doesn’t know you, your lifestyle, and the foods you like and dislike. Unless he’s lucky enough to have recommended foods and an eating pattern that you enjoy, odds are you’re not going to stick with his diet forever and when you stop you’ll likely gain any weight you lost back. Sorry to be such a downer. I just hate seeing people throw money away on things like these over-hyped books that only Dr Smith truly gains from. The Shred Diet only lasts for six weeks. Presuming you’re going to continue living past the end of the diet, what will you eat then?

I was also a little curious about Dr Smith himself. What’s his background? How did he come to be such a prolific peddler of diet books? His website is not remotely enlightening. All it tells us is that he’s a celebrity who wrote a bunch of books, has appeared on a number of television talk shows, has started a couple of national “health initiatives”, and was recently appointed to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport, and Nutrition. No mention of where he attended medical school, what type of medicine he specialized in and practice(d). Searching a little more I found some of the answers on this old Junkfood Science blog post (I recommend reading the entire post for more insight into celebrity doctors, specifically Dr Smith, and their diets). Here’s the key bit of information that I was looking for:

He received his M.D. credential from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, a 4-year pass-fail curriculum, but there is no note that he ever went on to do the three to seven more years of residency training in order to practice medicine, or any additional fellowship training for any specialty. He is not listed as having a license to practice in Illinois or New York, the states he has listed as residing, or as having a membership in the American Medical Association.

If you’re looking to lose weight please don’t trust a celebrity (regardless of whether or not there’s an MD after their name). Go to your doctor, get a referral to a dietitian, talk to an actual person who has training in weight management and will take the time to get to know you and your needs.

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Something sour: Vinegar and blood sugar control


I saw this tweet: “Add 4 teaspoons of vinegar to your diet daily to lower your blood sugar. This may help prevent diabetes #OzTip” from Dr Oz the other day and I immediately thought “blog fodder!”

Googling the subject of vinegar and blood sugar and diabetes, I thought maybe there was something to this lower effect of vinegar on blood sugar after all. WebMD said:

The effect of vinegar on blood sugar levels is perhaps the best researched and the most promising of apple cider vinegar’s possible health benefits. Several studies have found that vinegar may help lower glucose levels.

However, they carry on to state that:

a 2007 study of 11 people with type 2 diabetes found that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed lowered glucose levels in the morning by 4%-6%.

Umm… if this is the best evidence they could come up with then I’m not so sure about using vinegar to lower blood sugar. 11 is an extremely small sample size. As it turns out, most of the evidence supporting the use of vinegar for blood sugar control comes from very small studies. I found one study that compared the consumption of vinegar, vinegar pills, and pickles in 27 people (so, only nine in each treatment group). They found that vinegar had a modest (0.16% in HbA1c) lowering effect on the morning blood sugar of participants while those consuming pickles and vinegar pills actually saw a slight increase in HbA1c. The other study I found was even worse. It included only 11 participants (I think that this is the one the WebMD article was referring to). They found that fasting blood sugar was reduced by 2% in the control group and 4% in the group ingesting vinegar at bedtime. I also think it’s interesting to note that this footnote accompanied the study:

The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page
charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance
with 18 U.S.C Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

Yes, these results are interesting but with such small sample sizes they’re essentially meaningless. Until larger studies are able to produce similar results I don’t think that advising anyone to consume vinegar at bedtime for blood sugar control is prudent.

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The tooth-whitening power of raisins!

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I feel like this shouldn’t need any comment. When I saw this tweet my first thought was: @DrOz has been hacked! I mean, really? Raisins for white teeth? This is one of the most ludicrous suggestions I’ve ever heard. I’m fairly confident that any dentist would agree with me when I say that raisins will not whiten your teeth. Raisins, and other dried fruit, actually promote tooth decay as they’re sweet and sticky.

Besides all that, will antioxidants whiten teeth? Not that I’m aware of (that’s not to say they won’t). In fact, hydrogen peroxide (one of the most common whitening ingredients in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and home-whitening kits) is actually an oxidizer.


Dr Oz anti-allergy diet


I’ve been feeling a little low on blogspiration lately so I decided to pay a visit to good old Dr. Oz’s website. He did not let me down. One of the posts on his home page was for an “anti-allergy” diet. This diet was devised by Dr. Mark Hyman. Starting to read the preamble about allergies I wondered about this doctor when he stated,

Foods with dairy can cause unhealthy bacteria to overgrow and produce toxins that cause systemic inflammation that swells the intestines and prevents normal digestion, causing weight gain, among other conditions such as irritable bowel. In fact, you can gain up to 30 pounds a year due to a dairy allergy.

Pretty sure there’s no legitimacy to these claims. Food allergies occur when your body believes a non-toxic substance to be a toxin and launches an attack on it. Symptoms can be immediate and severe, such as anaphylactic shock. They can also be more insidious, such as rashes. I have never heard of food allergies causing bacterial overgrowth and weight gain.

I did a little googling of Dr. Hyman and found this article bringing his credibility into question. Apparently he’s been known to peddle questionable cures upon which he garnered a profit.

His elimination diet is nothing new. It’s common to remove potential allergens to see if symptoms improve and then to gradually reintroduce, noting if symptoms recur. However, his recommendation to replace milk with almond milk, “which tastes good and has high quality protein and fat in it” is totally wack. Almond milk is pretty tasty but it’s very low in protein, one gram per cup. He also recommends seeing your doctor for a blood test to determine if you are allergic at the end of the three week diet. IgG Blood tests are not an accurate method of allergy testing. Other blood tests may be used if skin prick tests are precluded due to circumstances such as extreme eczema. Yes, go see your doctor, but ask for a referral to an allergist who will perform a skin-prick test.

This anti-allergy diet is also misleading in that it only addresses dairy allergies. There are a myriad of foods which may cause allergic reactions. An allergy to milk may not be the cause of any or all of you symptoms.