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The Science of Specificity
Wednesday,9 June,2010 13:25:35
You might be aware of NFI’s ongoing conflict with Dr. Oz over the on-air mistakes he made concerning fish and mercury and his apparent refusal to correct the record. The truth is when it comes to these TV docs it takes very little to get them on the wrong path. You know the old saying, “A Lie Repeated Often Enough Becomes Truth.” When these practitioners of infotainment employ sound bite science rather than real ground truth science it’s a disservice to their viewers.
Two days ago, Dr. Travis Stork, one of the hosts of the syndicated series, The Doctors, made an offhand comment during a segment about fighting osteoporosis that caught our attention because we saw him eschewing specificity in favor of said sound bite science. In hopes that we can get him back on the right track before he gets too far down the Oz rout we sent a letter to the producer of the program.
If the name sounds familiar, it ought to be, as Jay McGraw is the son of Dr. Phil McGraw.
June 8, 2010
Mr. Jay McGraw
Stage 29 Productions, LLC
2401 Colorado Avenue, Suite 110
Santa Monica, CA 90404-3585
Dear Mr. McGraw,
I am writing to you concerning a comment that was made on an episode of The Doctors that aired nationwide on June 7, 2010.
In that program, during a segment on preventing osteoporosis, Dr. Travis Stork said that, "fish in general is great, but choose the low mercury kind to prevent other problems." That comment left the impression that the trace amount of naturally occurring mercury in seafood is a concern for the entire population. It is not. As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said, "for most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a concern."
The joint EPA and FDA advisory that was issued in 2004 couldn't be clearer. The only populations that need to consider mercury in commercial seafood are women who are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, are nursing, or young children. These subpopulations are told to stay away from four specific species: shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel. This sort of offhand comment, while it may seem innocuous, can actually be quite damaging, as research shows that it can lead individuals to either curtail the amount of seafood they eat, or even completely eliminate it from their diet. While we suspect that wasn't Dr. Stork's intention, we know from experience that reduced fish consumption will be the practical effect of such advice, something that could lead to continued public health consequences.
A draft study by the FDA has concluded that the level of fish Americans currently eat prevents 50,000 deaths each year from stroke and heart attack. Meanwhile, that level is still low and omega-3 deficiency has been cited by researchers at Harvard University as the second leading diet-related cause of preventable death in this country, claiming 84,000 lives. We ask that in the future your program be more precise when it provides advice on fish consumption. In turn, I can put you in touch with our staff dietitian and director of nutrition communications, who would be happy to speak with your producers to answer any questions you might have.
National Fisheries Institute
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