Chris Woolston, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Your family doctor doesn’t work with a teleprompter. And there wasn’t a live studio audience the last time you put on a hospital gown — thankfully. Television is great for sports, reality shows and reruns of “The Big Bang Theory,” but if you’re getting your health information from TV, you might not be as well-informed — or as healthy — as you could be.
One problem, says Dr. Steven Woloshin, professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, is that TV doctors who are accomplished in one or more fields — Dr. Mehmet Oz, for example, is a cardiothoracic surgeon and a professor of surgery at Columbia University — end up discussing topics beyond their areas of expertise or certification.
“Just because someone’s on TV, just because they’re wearing scrubs, doesn’t mean they’re an expert on nutrition,” Woloshin, a specialist in internal medicine, says.
Viewers should look at all television health reports with a healthy dose of skepticism and check with their in-person doctors before making any major changes, Woloshin says. Your doctor may not be famous or TV-handsome, but the doctor in front of you likely knows more about you than the one on the screen.
Here are a few debatable tips that have recently popped up on TV.
Probiotics and digestive enzyme supplements
On an April episode of “The View,” Dr. Steven Lamm, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at New York University, sat in front of an array of probiotic and digestive enzyme supplements from Enzymedica Inc. and told the hosts: “I’m guaranteeing you, in three to five years, everyone is going to be on a probiotic, everyone is going to be on a digestive enzyme.”
Lamm, who was there to promote his new book, “No Guts, No Glory,” claimed that such supplements are crucial to overall gut health. But other experts aren’t so sure. “There’s no evidence that probiotics improve your health if you take them every day,” says Lynne McFarland, a probiotic researcher at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle.
Likewise, enzyme expert Dr. John Williams, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says that “people who have pancreatic disease need to take digestive enzymes, but other people don’t.”
Lamm didn’t mention it on the show, but he is a paid consultant for Ezymedica. (He said in an interview that he doesn’t have a financial stake in the actual sale of the company’s products.)