Health Articles
Posted on March 1, 2018 2:50 PM by Dr. Zimmer
I get asked all of the time why I do not recommend krill oil over fish oil. To many the evidence is so seemingly overwhelming in favor of krill oil that it really does not make sense why anyone would still be taking anything else. I can say that I have always been slow to jump on bandwagons. And, it seems, for good reason. All of the noise generated by the bandwagon can easily distract you from the fact that you are going in the wrong direction.
 
The truth is that the evidence does not support the use of krill oil. In fact, the evidence shows that krill oil has only one benefit over fish oil and that is the lack of a fishy burp that some people experience from fish oils. The major negative is that krill oil is about 5-6 times more expensive than a good quality fish oil.  So, it should have a significant and measurable benefit over fish oil to justify the increased costs. I would also like to point out that never in the history of man-kind has krill been a food source for humans. Thus, although krill oil comes from nature, it is not natural to the human diet.
 
Let’s examine the krill oil claims and see if they pass the sniff test.

Krill Oil’s Claimed Benefits
 
The most important fact you need to be aware of when people refer to “studies” supposedly supporting the claims of krill oil is that all of these studies have been done by the krill manufacturers. In and of itself, this does not mean that a study done by someone who has a financial interest in the outcome will always be bad. But, it most certainly means that you should take a closer look at the study’s claims before giving it a big accepting kiss on the lips.

Claim #1:  Krill Oil Is Absorbed Much Better Than Fish Oil
In one study of 76 obese adults, some were given 212 mg of EPA from fish oil and some were given 216 mg EPA from krill oil. (EPA is one of the beneficial omega 3 fatty acids found in these oils)  The fish oil group increased their plasma EPA levels by 81% while the krill oil increased by 89%. Looking at this in a direct manner the krill oil seems to be slightly better (89% vs. 81%) at similar doses. However, that is not the way studies are evaluated to determine whether there is a real difference. You have to determine a benefit through statistical significance. In other words, you have to look at other possible causes for the differences and take them out of the equation. When this is done there is NO statistical difference between these results. Thus, scientifically and clinically this study showed zero difference between krill and fish oil. It most certainly does not support the claims that krill oil is absorbed significantly better than fish oil.
 
The same principle affects the other study which is touted as having shown a benefit of krill oil absorption over fish oil. In this study subjects were given 543 mg of omega 3 from krill oil and 864 mg from fish oil. Even though the average increase in omega 3 was higher in the fish oil group, the higher amount was not statistically significant. Thus, krill oil advocates claim this shows that krill oil is more effective at a lower dose.  (Notice how they ignore the principle of statistical significance when it is not in their favor, but embrace it when the opposite occurs.) By itself, this study is not impressive and cannot be utilized to tout the superior absorption of krill over fish oil.
 
Many of the advocates for krill (Mercola, Oz, etc.) claim that the reason why it is better is because krill supplies the oil in a different form (phospholipid form) than natural fish oil (triglyceride form). Dr. Oz even showed an animation with the krill oil moving into the body at about a 5 times faster rate than the fish oil. He presented this animation as if there were solid and convincing scientific studies supporting this claim. NONE exist!
 
The only small study (12 subjects) looking at a direct comparison between krill oil and fish oil showed NO statistical difference between the oils studied. But, there was “a trend towards higher plasma phospholipids” with the krill oil. This is what the advocates latch onto to make their exaggerated (bordering on dishonest) claims. The reason why using this finding to make such bold claims about krill oil is dishonest is because it ignores the fact that the fish oil would more likely be absorbed in a different manner. For example, imagine if you bring your groceries into your house in both plastic and paper. You would not count the items in the plastic bags as the only ones “absorbed” into your house. Thus, this study tells us little about krill absorption benefits over fish oil. It most certainly does not support the exaggerated claims of 5 times the absorption!

Claim #2:  Krill Oil Contains Antioxidants Which Will Benefit Your Health
It is true that krill oil contains the carotenoid Astaxanthin. And, it is true that there are a few limited studies showing that Astaxanthins may be of benefit for your health. But, these studies used dosages of 4 mg up to 20 mg per day. Krill oil contains only about 0.5 mg of Astaxanthin per capsule. So, making any health claims because of the Astaxanthin content is called wishful thinking, at best. But, this does not stop exaggerators like Dr. Mercola from making ridiculous statements like; “Astaxanthin and this unique marine-source flavanoid in Pure Krill Oil creates a special bond with EPA and DHA, allowing for direct metabolism of the antioxidants.” He literally just made that up to promote the krill oil he is selling. NO studies to date have shown any health benefits from the antioxidants found in krill oil and because of the minute quantities found in the oil, none would be expected. These claims are wishful thinking mixed with exaggeration and topped with a sprinkle of dishonesty.

Claim #3:  Krill Oil Does Not Give You That Fishy Burp
As far as I can tell this is true.
 
But, there is something fishy about krill oil. The lengths to which the krill industry will go to try and publish studies that will promote their profits is disturbing. Two recent studies are the perfect example of why you have to find out who is paying for a study before you get that tingle down your leg because of the results.
 
In one study they claimed, “Krill oil supplementation lowers serum triglycerides without increasing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) in adults with borderline high or high triglyceride levels.”  The problem is that at the highest level of supplementation, 800 mg of krill oil, the triglycerides actually INCREASED! So, how were they able to make the claim in the title of their study? They did it with creative mathematics. In other words, if the numbers do not show what you want, make them show what you want.
 
In the second study, they claimed to have studied equal amounts of krill oil against fish oil. Except they adulterated the fish oil by mixing it with corn oil and did not disclose this in their study. When they were called to the carpet on this they replied, “We agree that we could have included the information about dilution of fish oil in the original manuscript itself.” But, they did not for some reason. My best guess is that they did not want to highlight the fact that you would have to take about 4 capsules of krill oil for every 1 fish oil. So, they diluted the fish oil to keep the krill oil dosage seemingly low. Comparing krill oil to an adulterated fish oil renders the study’s conclusions meaningless. But, that has not stopped advocates from using these studies to promote krill oil.

The Danger Of Taking Krill Oil
 
The real danger of taking krill oil is that you are being told it will provide the same benefits for your health as will fish oil, but at a much lower dose. Think about that for a moment. If they acknowledged that this was untrue, which seems to be the case, a bottle of krill oil with equivalent amounts of omega 3 as fish oil would cost 5 times as much. No one would buy it. So, they have to try and prove this claim or the whole industry would collapse. They are not going to let this happen and with the help of over-zealous pitchmen like Drs. Mercola and Oz they are accomplishing a successful deception.
 
The other potential concern, which I have not heard anyone else raise, is that the exoskeleton of krill must be removed before eating because it contains fluorine. Fluorine and its anion Fluoride are toxic at high concentrations. I could not find any information as to whether the krill industry is testing their product for fluorine content. I am not sounding an alarm because I do not know whether they are testing for this element or its anion (fluoride). But, it certainly is of concern with an industry that has shown itself to be less than honest in the representation of their product. Are you willing to trust them on this or would you like to know for sure? I am not so trusting.
 
Finally, if you go to PubMed and type in Krill Oil you find that there are only 164 articles in the peer reviewed literature. If you type in Fish Oil you find 29,466 articles. With the questions surrounding krill oil, why not pick the one that has 180 times as many studies?
 
So, if you have been riding the krill oil bandwagon you might want to consider jumping off and letting it go banging down the road without you.  Or, you can go on spending 5 times as much as a good quality fish oil and keep your fingers crossed that the deceptive health claims promoted by those making a profit are real.

Buying A High Quality Fish Oil Is Important
 
You may have noticed at the beginning of this article I disclosed that I am a proponent of taking HIGH QUALITY fish oils. People ask me all of the time whether it makes a difference as to where they get their fish oil. I am here to tell you, in my not so humble but educated opinion, that taking fish oils you bought at Costco, Sam’s, WalMart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, the Vitamin Shoppe or on the internet may actually be more harmful than helpful for your health.
 
The reason has to do with two factors: pesticide residues and rancidity. Only the best brands, which are usually only sold through doctor’s offices, test their oil for both of these potentially health harming molecules. Some test for pesticides, but not for rancidity. If you take a rancid oil, you are taking an oxidant, which is just the opposite of an antioxidant (most people know antioxidants are good for you).  Taking a pro-oxidant rancid fish oil is not a good idea if you want to improve your health. But, this is exactly what you may be doing each day!
 
Some fish oils become rancid at the time of encapsulation. Many others become rancid as they sit in non-temperature controlled warehouses by the tens of thousands of bottles waiting to be shipped to their final destination. Others contain extremely long expiration dates and eventually become rancid because they have sat on a shelf for too long. Thus, I do believe it is possible to potentially harm your health in the long-run by taking poor quality fish oils.
 
I urge you to stop taking store-bought fish oils. Consider taking Dr. Zimmer’s Pure Omega 3 Fish Oil. Contact me and I will send you a coupon for your first bottle. That way you know you are getting only the best for the money you spend. Why not take the best for your health? Other good brands include Metagenics, Thorne Research, Designs for Health, OrthoMolecular Products (who make my oils for me) or Nordic Naturals.
 
God bless and I hope this article was educational.
Posted on March 5, 2017 4:20 PM by Dr. Zimmer
Everyone has an opinion and I thank God for our uniqueness. Otherwise, this world would be robotic, completely predictable and quite boring. The problem caused by considering multiple opinions when it comes to following natural medicine advice is that it typically makes it very difficult to determine who and what to believe. The task of gathering topic relevant information is both helped and hindered by the internet. If you are not sure to what I am referring simply Google any natural health topic and watch the avalanche of differing opinions and suggestions that will flood your screen.
 
To gain direction we typically rely upon information gleaned from those whom we perceive as having more expertise in our topic of query. In Western health care the medical doctor reigns supreme. Taken as a whole, any opinion rendered by the medical community is given significant weight of consideration in helping us formulate our final stance towards any health topic. This makes perfect sense to the majority, since medical doctors typically represent a portion of our society considered to be of higher intellect and who form their opinions based on scientifically sound information. And, we have an inherently higher level of comfort with this group since we have relied upon them from childhood to give us direction and care when we were sick.
 
On the other end of the spectrum are those who seemingly question nothing and somehow think it logical to run a power crystal on your solar plexus in order to heal anything that ails you. We inherently have a lower level of comfort in taking advice from this group because the common perception is that those who tender this kind of advice are typically in the clan of con artists or nut-bags.
 
Solving the problem of whom and what to believe is not an easy one when it comes to the topic of natural health. We all have the innate knowledge that it is simply impossible for anyone to know everything. Deep down you understand the extent of anyone’s knowledge is limited by their experiences, intellect, biases, passion (or lack there-of), and inability to assimilate all the information about any one topic. Can a medical doctor be wrong at times? Can a crystal wielding nut-bag be right at times? The answer to both of these questions is yes, which tells you that you may not be served very well by accepting everything spoken by your M.D. or by disregarding everything claimed by the so-called “Quacks”.
 
My goal in this article is to give you some tools and understanding by which you will be able to formulate an opinion on natural health care topics that goes beyond hearing and believing. My hope is that you become more “critically open-minded” in your approach of determining what is good for your optimal health.
 
Defining Critically Open-minded
 
I began using this term almost two decades ago when I came to the realization that being too critical was severely limiting my ability to give my patients cutting edge, yet sound, natural health care information. By learning to balance being critical with an open mind, you will be able to form a defensible and logical opinion about any health care topic.
 
The Critic
 
By allowing yourself to become too critical you severely limit the range and effectiveness of what treatment you can accept as valid. You create a tight paradigm within which you only allow information that passes the test put forth by a strict set of guidelines. A great example of this would be the medical community. Very little in the realm of natural health is accepted within their treatment paradigm unless it passes the test of being studied under scientific methods. Their recommendations are governed by the use of “studied medicine” which, in turn, is almost completely directed by the pharmaceutical industry. If you have not had a chance to read my recent article, “Studied Medicine: Quit Fooling Yourself!”, I suggest you click on the link to learn why this term represents a glass house built adjacent to an area of rock slides.
 
Let me give you an interesting and thought-provoking example to illustrate how being too critical may limit knowledge. I recently received an email from a patient giving me an update on her condition after following my direction for the treatment of her digestive issues.
 
“Dr. Z, I wanted to update you on my condition since our last phone conversation. (We did a phone/internet consult since she lives outside of Indiana.) My digestive pain is completely gone for the first time in over a year. I am no longer bloated and I have much more energy than before I found you.”
 
The interesting part of this story is that she had been to her primary care doctor, the E.R. and TWO Gastroenterologists (G.I. specialists) without results prior to our consult. How on this earth could an alternative health doctor have helped a patient who had seen four different medical doctors with two of those specializing in only digestive issues? Another important question would be if the treatment I recommended was so effective in contrast to the medical specialist’s failures, why would they not adopt such a therapy?
 
The answers to these questions are simply that they were limited by being too critical in their thinking. When a patient tells the G.I. specialist she had success with a treatment that falls outside of the doctor’s paradigm he quickly classified this information in his X-files. In other words, it is the stuff that he cannot explain, but has to be chalked up to the placebo-effect in his mind. The biggest problem is that he will rarely even hear about these successes. Do you really think this patient is going to pay for an expensive follow-up appointment with the G.I. only to tell him that she is symptom-free and just wanted to inform him of the alternative treatment she used? No way! So, as far as the G.I. knows his treatment protocol was effective, since the patient did not return.
 
I can tell you that I have had many dozens of these types of successes and have NEVER received a call from a G.I. specialist asking me to explain the logic of my treatment protocols. Thus, they gained no wisdom from the exposure to this successful treatment and a couple of patients later, their chance to widen their treatment options and to grow intellectually was lost.
 
The Absolute Open-minded
 
The other side of the coin is the person who is too open-minded. The only evidence they need to believe in anything is that someone reported feeling better after following that procedure. This leads to the wackiest of the wacky that gives alternative health care a serious black eye. In addition, this opens you up to a much higher chance of trying totally ineffective or worthless treatments. I will share a kind of funny, but eye-opening, experience with you to help illustrate just how being too open-minded is not the way to go.
 
I had a discussion with an energy-type healer recently and, as is my nature, I was challenging some of her core beliefs. She became more than a little bit upset with my lack of faith in her faith and ended up scolding me because I admitted that I had not personally experienced her type of treatments first hand. So, I set an appointment with her.
 
Upon my arrival she asked me if I had any areas of concern. I told her that I was under a lot of stress and that I thought it was affecting my energy levels. (This was completely true, by the way.) Her treatment room was dimly lit with candles and I laid face up on a very comfortable massage-like table. The quality of her touch was outstanding. Her hands were soft and her fingers were refreshingly cool, but not cold. I became ultra relaxed and felt a release from the tension that had ruled my body just prior to the onset of treatment. I quickly realized how someone could conclude that this was going to be an effective treatment for what ever symptoms they were experiencing.
 
As I laid on my back I thought of how I could test her in the wackiest of ways. So, I first told her that something very weird was going on. I told her that I felt like there was something like electricity coming out of my big toe, but only on the right side. (This was completely made-up, by the way.) She was not surprised at all and even told me that this was negative energy leaving my body from my liver. A short while later I told her of another alarming, but completely made-up, symptom. I told her that I felt like there was a beam of energy coming out of my belly button that was going up to the ceiling! For the life of me I can not remember what she told me to explain this made-up phenomena, but I can tell you that she was not at all surprised by my belly button light saber.
 
This experience illustrates how completely open-minded people will believe anything without question. Does this mean that they will be wrong all of the time? Not at all! But, their chance of being completely off base is no doubt higher than their overly critical counterparts.
 
Becoming Critically Open-minded
 
So, how do you train yourself to look at natural health information in a critically open-minded manner? I have a number of practical suggestions for you.
 
Stop Putting Your Faith In Studied Medicine
 
You need to come to the realization that studied medicine only gives you questionable information suggesting a benefit or lack there of for any treatment or substance. That is why one study shows a benefit and why another concludes there is none. Statistics and outcomes are so massaged and planned in these studies that no one should give them more weight than they deserve. Consider the outcomes of studies as a small piece of the puzzle without having the ability to give you the whole picture. Realize that NO study proves or disproves anything and that whoever is funding the study has great influence over the outcome of the study.
 
Do you remember a number of years ago when a study came out concluding that a high sugar intake was associated with hyper behavior in children? Months later a different study came out stating just the opposite. Guess who funded this second study? Yep…the sugar industry. Another example is that 100% of the studies funded by the aspartame (artificial sweetener) industry revealed no negative findings for their product. However, the vast majority of independent studies raise serious questions about this product.
 
There are MANY other examples I could give you but let me use anti-depressants as a final example. St. John’s Wort has been much maligned over the years in the news. The basic take home from the reporting is that St. John’s Wort is worthless and your medical doctor will quickly opine in this manner. Evaluation of numerous studies shows that St. John’s Wort only has about a 40% effectiveness. That is O.K., but not super. Studied medicine also tells us that just about all anti-depressants work, on average, in only 40% of cases. But, that is the same as St. John’s Wort and St. John’s Wort has way fewer side effects. Thus, if doctors evaluated the science in an unbiased manner they would most certainly tell their patients to try St. John’s Wort first. But, alas, this NEVER occurs.
 
 
Probability verses Possibility
 
I have patients ask me all of the time whether it is possible that a certain product could cure their condition…and I stop them right there. I always tell them, “Yes, it is possible.” The question, though, needs to be is it probable. I learned a long time ago that we know very little about the human body and that everyone is different. This means that someone could very well experience a “cure” from using a product. How can I say no way without being a complete know-it-all ego-maniac? My concern is whether it is likely, not if it is possible.
To determine the probability of benefit you can hope to gain from any procedure, drug or product you can use good old fashion common sense. Ask yourself these questions:
 
Does your type of symptom or condition typically resolve quickly or deep down do you know that getting rid of it is difficult? The more chronic or complicated your condition the less likely it is that any one procedure, drug or product will afford you a significant resolution of symptoms. Thus, the probability of resolution is low.
 
How sensational are the claims of benefit? It is not atypical for someone to want a cure so badly that they would do anything to get rid of symptoms. Thus, many of us are attracted by claims of quick cures or miraculous results. NOTHING cures chronic conditions for everyone. The probability of curative qualities from sensationalized products or procedures is very low.
 
Finally, what does your gut tell you? I know this is highly unscientific, but remember we are practicing being critically open-minded. There is no substitute for good old fashion gut feelings. Shady sales people sell a lot of products even though people know down deep that the chance of something living up to expectation is low. Is your gut’s B.S. ‘o-meter going off or is your gut filled with genuine excitement and hope? Follow your gut. The probability of success goes way down if your gut tells you no and you do not listen.
 
Experts
 
NO ONE KNOWS EVERYTHING! I just wanted to point that out again. So, you will never find an “Expert” who can give you direction on everything within the natural health care arena. I can tell you with confidence that if you rely on one source for all your information you are missing out. This applies to popular health care internet sites and this especially applies to me!
 
I always find it peculiar that so many of us wholly ignore this universal truth that no one knows everything when we ask our doctors questions. This is especially true when that doctor has an M.D. behind his or her name. Let me let you in on a little secret. Doctors, in general, know a little about a lot of topics. Doctors know very little detailed information about any specific topics. The secret is that they are good at faking it and will enthusiastically give you their opinion even when it covers a topic well outside of their expertise.
 
For example, I get told on a regular basis that, “My doctor says all I need is a Centrum.” I say your doctor is completely wrong and the fact that he/she told you this displays a gross lack of knowledge when it comes to taking supplements. But, instead of honestly telling a patient that they really do not have any training or knowledge in this area, they give an answer anyway. And, they give that answer with an air of confidence.
Tell me…is it not refreshing when a doctor admits that he just does not know the answer to your question? Or, if she tells you that she does not have expertise in a certain area? Do you think less of him/her or do you respect him/her for acknowledging his/her limitations?
 
So, if none of us knows everything, how do you pick your experts? The answer is that you test them. Challenge them with questions to identify why they believe what they believe, read what they write, get opinions from others in the field for comparison and test to see if what they say passes your scrutiny. Here are some questions you should ask to determine the amount of faith you will put in anyone’s level of expertise.
 
  1. Is the “expert” selling you something specific? This is an easy one. If an expert is endorsing a unique and specific product, your chance of getting a well balanced opinion from that person is very low. Ignore claims of “World renowned”, “Internationally known”, “Recognized expert” or “Leader in his field” type of claims. The people I look up to as leaders in natural medicine NEVER tell you how great or accomplished they are. They prove it with their work.
  2. Does the “expert” study in the field for which they are rendering an opinion? This may sound like a “No, Duh” type of question. But, as I mentioned earlier, people ask their medical doctor’s opinion about natural health care all of the time. When you are going to obtain an opinion from someone do you not want to know if they actually study that topic? So, ask your doctor if they specialize in and study the use of vitamins, herbals or supplements. If they say yes, then ask your question. If they say they have some knowledge or that it is not an area of expertise, don’t take the chance on confusing yourself with their opinion. If you were a mother expecting your first child and wanted to get some expert information about labor and delivery, you wouldn’t go to your friend’s husband to ask him his opinion just because he had familiarity with the subject. No, you would ask the person who actually had a more intimate level of experience with childbirth.
  3. Does that “expert” actually work with patients or do they just render opinions? I constantly read information spewed by those who do not even work with people. Many are researchers who make claims based on theory and not on real life experience. Google the name of the expert and see if they work in a clinic or if they are an academic.
  4. What has this “expert” written? Every expert I know has written numerous articles in order to share their views and knowledge with those who need help. I would be very cautious about accepting an opinion from someone who does not write articles for the lay public. Get a couple of their articles and read them. Then let your gut’s B.S. o’meter (I like that term) go to work. Does what they write seem to be solid in logic? Do they back it up or do they just use rhetoric?
The Bottom Line
 
Those who tend to dismiss anything not endorsed by their medical doctors are limiting their health care options by being too critical and closed-minded. On the other hand, if all you need is a well written testimonial to make you believe in something, you are way too open-minded. If you tend to be too critical, my recommendation is to temper that with a dose of open-mindedness. If you are too open-minded, throw in some critical thinking in order to find a balance.
 
First, stop putting your faith in studied medicine. Never let the words, “But, it is not FDA approved!” come out of your mouth again. Give studies a relatively small amount of consideration when deciding the merits of any natural treatment. Next, determine the PROBABILITY that something is worthwhile. Is your gut telling you something? Listen to it. Finally, find a few experts in natural medicine and evaluate what they have to say.
Use all of this information to practice the art of becoming critically open-minded and you will benefit your over-all health tremendously
Posted on March 1, 2017 4:24 PM by Dr. Zimmer
An internal medicine doctor recently told me her advice to patients was that it is o.k. to take vitamins and minerals, but she never recommended herbals because they were not studied. “We have to practice studied medicine in order to make the best recommendations for our patients”, she said.
 
I think most people agree the best way to practice medicine would be to make recommendations based upon benefits proven in the studies. The problem is this notion of practicing “studied medicine” is a fairy tale believed by both those practicing medicine and by those receiving medical care. The belief that doctors practice “studied medicine” is on par with believing in the Tooth Fairy. My apologies to anyone crushed by the realization that the disappearing canine from under their pillow was not funded by Tinker Bell’s cousin.
 
I know…I know…this claim goes against just about everything that has been drilled into our heads since we were young. You need to trust your doctor because they are basing their recommendations on FDA approved therapies. And, the FDA only approves therapies that undergo rigorous study. Thus, doctors obviously practice studied medicine. Let me shed some light on this subject so we can all click our Ruby Slippers together to get ourselves out of the Land of Oz. It is important for you to realize that doctors DO NOT practice studied medicine!
 
FDA Approval
 
One of the facts giving comfort for the use of prescription drugs is they have to endure a rigorous process of study in order to gain FDA approval. There are three major problems with allowing yourself to become comfortable with this process. First, the FDA approval of drugs does not mean the drug is safe. Secondly, doctors routinely utilize drugs in a manner that does not have FDA approval. Thirdly, many drugs are approved by the FDA even though they show very little clinical benefit for the patient. Let me give you a couple of examples. I could give you dozens, but I am way too lazy to type all of that information. The examples I am about to use are not unique by any manner.
 
Example #1:
 
A class of anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals, known as selective COX-2 inhibitors, had three main drugs approved for prescription use by the FDA. These drugs include Celebrex, Vioxx and Bextra.  There is just one slight problem with the use of these drugs:  THEY KILL PEOPLE! But, of course, you have been led to believe the FDA protects us from this possibility. Unfortunately, you are sadly mistaken.
 
Most of you may know that Vioxx and Bextra were “voluntarily” removed from the market due to the fact that they significantly increase, in part, the risks of stroke and heart attack. In fact, some estimates are that 50,000 people have had their lived destroyed by these drugs. Now here are some interesting and disturbing facts.
 
I began warning patients about the dangers of COX-2 drugs about one full year prior to Vioxx and Bextra being taken off the market. How did I know this? I read the alarming studies that strongly suggested these drugs were dangerous. Many doctors, who only practice studied medicine, ridiculed my position and cautioned their patients about getting their information from a quack. One even told me I should leave the practice of medicine up to medical doctors. He obviously thought his M.D. degree stood for Medical Deity! I cannot even express to you how much I dislike people who think the world of themselves.
 
So, did the FDA take these drugs off of the market? The answer is no. The FDA basically told the companies making these drugs that they could voluntarily take their drugs off of the market to save face or have the FDA most likely recommend they be removed. Thus, the companies “volunteered” to take their drug off of the market.
 
Some of you may be wondering why I would be using this as an example of how FDA approval doesn’t assure safety. Didn’t the fact that the FDA forced these drugs from the market prove their effectiveness at looking after the well-being of the population? Not by a long shot! Did you notice there were three drugs in the selective COX-2 class? Celebrex is still on the market. So, the FDA must have studies showing that Celebrex is safe and does not cause an increase in heart attacks or strokes, right? WRONG!!  Celebrex does increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes, but the FDA “believes” at a lesser, more acceptable level. Here is the statement made by the FDA, “We have concluded that the benefits of Celebrex outweigh the potential risks in properly selected and informed patients.”
 
Let me translate for you: “We have concluded the benefits of reducing pain gained from taking Celebrex outweighs the fact that it also kills a significant, but unknown, number of patients each year. Thus, we suggest that this drug only be given to a properly selected and informed group of patients.” Now, let me ask you two very important questions that will illustrate just how absurd the FDA’s position is on this matter. How do doctors determine which patients will not suffer an adverse event from taking Celebrex and is anyone fully informed about the risks when they are give a prescription for this drug? The answers to these questions are that doctors have NO WAY of determining who will get a heart attack or stroke from Celebrex and the only doctor who goes over the risks of taking a drug with a patient is the one you see on television pharmaceutical advertisements. When was the last time your doctor wrote you a prescription and then explained to you all of the potential serious side effects?
 
Let’s shoot straight here. If the FDA’s true concern was with protecting the consumer they would have taken all of the COX-2 drugs off of the market as soon as there was an indication of danger and would not have allowed their return until studies could be done to prove their safety. Unfortunately for the makers of these drugs these studies would take many years to complete and this course of action would have been financially devastating for them. What is going on here? The FDA is more concerned with the financial viability of the pharmaceutical industry than with your safety. To come to any other conclusion requires a complete disregard for the facts.
 
Example #2:
 
Nexium, made by AstraZeneca, is among the class of drugs known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s). This class of drugs is among the most prescribed in medicine today. The FDA approval for Nexium is for 4-8 weeks of use. The longest recommendation for use is 6 months and only for the maintenance of the healing of Erosive Esophagitis and for the risk reduction of NSAID-associated gastric ulcers. Here is a quote from a document produced by AstraZeneca and found on FDA.gov, “Controlled studies (for Nexium) do not extend beyond 6 months.”
Thus, if doctors practiced “studied medicine” they would only allow most of their patients to use Proton Pump Inhibitors, like Nexium, for up to 8 weeks and a few patients to use these drugs for at the most 6 months. Almost ALL doctors continue to prescribe this class of drugs to their patients for years! My brother-in-law’s brother (I know…slightly confusing) was told by his G.I. specialist that he had people on PPI’s for a decade and had no reservations in doing so. Recent studies show that long-term PPI use significantly increases risks for osteoporosis bone fractures, pneumonia and chronic diarrhea.
 
How many people taking these drugs do you think got letters or calls from their doctor telling them that since they only practice studied medicine their recommendation was for them to stop using their PPI medication after 8 weeks? The answer is NONE OF THEM received this type of letter! I wonder if that G.I. specialist has sent letters of apology to his patients for not practicing studied medicine and causing them to have an increased risk for bone fractures, pneumonia and/or chronic diarrhea? What do you think?
 
I always find it comical when people use FDA approval (or lack of FDA approval) as their gauge to determine their comfort level for taking any drug or supplement. I hear people say “that is not FDA approved” all of the time. The only thing you can be confident of is that FDA approval means the substance will most likely not act like a poison and kill you in short order. If you think FDA approval guarantees safety or that doctors will use FDA approved drugs along the approved guidelines…welcome to the Land of Oz.
 
Mixing Drugs
 
How many people do you know who take more than one prescription at a time? My record is a patient who was taking 21 different prescriptions! Although that is not common, it is extremely common for me to see patients taking between 3 and 6 different drugs at the same time. The fact that doctors mix prescriptions without any reservations is the reason why I almost choked up a hair-ball when the internal medicine doctor told me that we should not recommend herbals due to the lack of studied support for their use. The hypocrisy of this statement was so evident I was forced to think about how this doctor could even make such a statement with a straight face.
 
Remember, the claim is that doctors have to practice studied medicine. I would like you to show me even ONE study proving the long-term safety of using 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or more drugs together. There are NONE!  So, I ask you to explain to me how anyone can engage in the practice of studied medicine without having even one study to support the use of giving patients multiple prescriptions at one time. Can you imagine a doctor telling you to never take an herb due to the lack of studied support, but then writing you prescriptions for 3 different drugs? How hypocritical!
 
I would totally understand the practice of prescribing many drugs without regard to safety if it was well known that drugs do not interact with each other. Unfortunately, we know that drugs do indeed interact with each other. Just look at the insert for any prescription and see the list of other drugs you should not use when taking that drug. If you think this is an exhaustive list of any and all potential reactions you are hopelessly naïve. The FDA finds new reactions all of the time and to think there are no more to be discovered is ludicrous. For example, the FDA has recently announced that Prilosec (the cousin to Nexium) blocks the benefits of taking the blood thinner Plavix. There are many thousands of others to be discovered.
 
The Bottom Line
 
The reason why we like the thought of hiding behind the smoke and mirrors of following the recommendations of “studied medicine” is because it gives us a false sense of security. It gives us a buffer of assurance in protection against being fooled by false or misrepresented claims for any health product. All of us hate being played for the fool! None of us likes to be taken. What each and every one of us needs to understand is that there is a stark difference between having a study suggest the benefit for a substance verses practicing studied medicine.
 
Doctors use the FDA approval process to create the deception of practicing studied medicine. The hypocrisy of this claim is well illustrated by the examples I use in this article. As I see it, there can only be three reasons to explain this hypocrisy. The first is that doctors are simply unintelligent and do not have the capacity to understand the hypocrisy. There is no way this can be true. The second is that doctors, as a whole, are disingenuous and are knowingly deceiving patients to protect their way of practicing medicine. This may be true for a few doctors, but there is no way this can apply to the majority of health care practitioners. The final possible explanation is that doctors, as a whole, are intellectually lazy and have not put forth the effort to recognize the hypocrisy of their claim of only practicing studied medicine. Shame on them!
 
For your sake, I hope you start to question your doctor each and every time they write you a prescription. Stop thinking about your doctors as Medical Deities and remember that they are “practicing” medicine. It is important for you to realize that you are the one on whom they are practicing! My hope is that you will reject the all to commonly used argument that herbals are potentially dangerous because they are not studied or FDA approved. Most natural products are NOT FDA approved, but they are indeed well studied.