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Dr. Mehmet Oz: Global Medicine

September 2008

By Sue Kovach

Dr. Oz has coined the term global medicine to describe this blending of Western and non-Western methods of healing—two things he believes do not have to be mutually exclusive. He holds these complementary therapies, some new and some very old, to the same standards as he does Western techniques, and will only use what he sees is working for the patient.

“If we are to achieve maximum healing, we should use any tool at our disposal—including non-scientific approaches—provided there is evidence that they do no harm to the patients,” he says.

Maintaining his strong confidence in science, Dr. Oz feels that the standard belief that medicine offers all the solutions has caused patients to give up the proactive role they should be playing in their own health care. Reclaiming that proactive role has become his powerful and enabling message to the public, and he is clearly excited about delivering that message to millions through his books and TV appearances.

Reporters often visit the Columbia University medical school when covering medical stories, and calls to Dr. Oz became more frequent

This public education aspect of his career began when the news media discovered he was “a good interview.” Reporters often visit the Columbia University medical school when covering medical stories, and calls to Dr. Oz became more frequent. Increased exposure as a subject matter expert led to even more demand for Dr. Oz, and his audience grew tremendously when he appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show, appearances that eventually led to regular health and wellness segments.

Dr. Oz seems custom-made for television. He engages the audience with his fascination with the possibilities of both traditional and complementary medicine. Listening to him, you want to lose weight, you want to eat better, and live longer. But by educating people in this way, he is helping to open channels of communication between patients and their doctors so that patients are further empowered to become more involved in their own health destinies.

Dr. Oz has become a ubiquitous presence on the internet and has also written several enormously popular books. His breakthrough 1999 book, Healing from the Heart: A Leading Surgeon Combines Eastern and Western Traditions to Create the Medicine of the Future, recalls his own experiences as a heart surgeon, his evolution into integrative medicine, and patient success stories. He went on to create the “You” series of books (co-authored with Dr. Michael Roizen), such as the best-selling You: The Owner’s Manual, You: On a Diet, and You: The Smart Patient, written to provide people with the information they need to take control of their own health and become comfortable doing so. His newest book in the series could be the most exciting yet. You: Staying Young, The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty brings the field of anti-aging medicine front and center (see sidebar below).

I think there’s a disconnect between people and their own bodies

“I think there’s a disconnect between people and their own bodies, an information gap,” he says. “No one ever said to them, ‘Here’s what’s going on with your body.’ And if they’re not ready to hear it in the way they want to hear it, that can be scary. America has a lot of health issues we’re not dealing with, but people need to realize they have a lot of control over this process. They can learn things on their own and be savvy users of the health care system. The problem has been that for most people, authentic information can be really hard to get. But I want to make everyone a smart user of health care and to make sure that everyone’s getting the best care because both doctor and patient are asking the right questions.”

Dr. Oz encourages people to be prepared for their doctor appointments by developing their personal health profile, a summary of their health issues and history that includes family history, and to be prepared to discuss critical topics. He advises people to learn as much as they can from as many sources as they can, and cites Life Extension magazine as “a good resource that’s full of practical information and articles about supplements that I often find useful.”

“Most patients don’t do a great job of communicating with their doctors because patients often give us docs too little pertinent information to go on—and remember, just like a detective, we’re looking for the facts,” says Dr. Oz. “At the same time, they may also give us too many distracting or off-topic details. The first sign of a Smart Patient is that telltale document, the personal health profile that they produce during their first visit, or even their 50th. This is the sign of a patient who means business, one who will challenge us to be at our absolute best, and who won’t waste time and money on redundant and unnecessary efforts.”

Between his practice, teaching, writing books, and making media appearances, it is tempting to conclude that Dr. Oz is a man who probably doesn’t sleep much. The love of his profession and his passion for his message keep him going in all these areas. He strongly believes that we can turn around the health problems facing the nation today if people will simply take charge of their own health destiny again.

The ultimate solution to the health care problem

“I’m passionate about the message. I believe that all health care is personal, and we have to get Americans to do it for themselves,” he says. “The ultimate solution to the health care problem in our country will only be found through empowering individuals to take better care of themselves. It won’t happen otherwise. We can try to delegate healthcare from Washington, DC, but the only way to get healthy is for individuals to take responsibility to do it on their own.” With Dr. Oz’s help, we are certainly on the way to doing so.

Dr. Oz on Anti-Aging: Five Major Agers (and what you can do about them)
Dr. Oz on Anti-Aging: Five Major Agers (and what you can do about them)

In his book, You: Staying Young, The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty, Dr. Oz focuses on what he calls the Major Agers, 14 biological processes that control the rate at which you age. He offers detailed easy-to-understand explanations of these process and what you can do to combat their negative effects. He also makes diet and supplement recommendations along with prescriptions for stress reduction and other lifestyle changes. Most importantly, he notes that it’s never too early or too late to start making positive changes in your life to combat aging.

“Even if you start making changes late in life, you can still repair the damages that age the body,” he says. “It’s important to remember that the things we do for longevity are things we do for ourselves, not things that doctors do for us.”

Here are five Major Agers and what you can do to combat their effects.

1. Bad Genes and Short Telomeres

Genes are key to determining how you age. While you might be stuck with the genes you’re given, you can help control the way they’re expressed. Says Dr. Oz, “We’re starting to uncover more and more ways that you can change how your genes function. For example, just 10 minutes of walking turns on a gene that decreases cancer growth rate, and resveratrol turns on a gene that slows or stops a dangerous inflammatory process that happens in the body.”

2. Declining Defenses

Declining Defenses

When it comes to aging, we’re concerned with acute infections and chronic infections, when bacteria and other germs trigger a behind-the-scenes inflammatory response that ages your entire system, says Dr. Oz. Fight declining defenses by getting the nutrients shown to boost your natural defenses, such as omega-3 fatty acids, resveratrol, catechins (found in green tea), quercetin, lycopene, biotin, vitamins B6 and B12, ginger, and curcumin.

3. Toxins

Toxins can chip away at our overall health so we’re much more prone to feeling the effects of aging, says Dr. Oz. “Some of the toxins that we encounter are potentially very harmful and can cause cancer, asthma, or allergies, and they can reduce your quality of life in more subtle ways.” Weakened immune systems from aging that are unable to fight off the Major Ager of toxins create a perfect storm of cancer-causing factors. To prevent the birth and spread of cancer cells, take these steps:

  • Fortify yourself with vitamin D. “Vitamin D decreases the risk of cancer, perhaps because it’s toxic to cancer cells. The other theory is that D bolsters the ability of the guard-dog p53 gene to spot cancerous cells and kill them.” Most Americans don’t get enough D—we’re indoors a lot, or wearing sunscreen when we’re outdoors. Dr. Oz’s vitamin D recommendation: 800 IU a day if you’re younger than 60 and 1,000 IU if you’re over 60. (Editor’s note: Many aging individuals require far higher doses of vitamin D to achieve optimal status.)

  • Protect your liver. Certain foods and supplements can help improve liver function and have anti-cancer properties. These are choline (which can be found in cabbage, cauliflower, and soybeans), as well as N-acetylcysteine, milk thistle, lecithin (1 tablespoon daily), and rosemary extract .

  • B protected. Research shows that folate deficiency is linked to cancer. “Folate supplementation decreases colon cancer rates by 20 to 50%,” says Dr. Oz. “The amount of folate that seems to reduce colon cancer is 800 micrograms a day.” The average intake of folate through food: only 275 to 375 micrograms, so you need a supplement to reduce cancer risk.

  • Selenium reduces damage that can lead to cancer. Sources include foods like garlic that absorb selenium from the soil. However, soil in most areas of the country is depleted of selenium. “It seems that taking 200 micrograms of selenium in organic supplements may help reduce cancer,” says Dr. Oz. “Don’t exceed 600 micrograms a day.”

4. Glycosylation

Glycosylation occurs when sugar molecules, or glucose, in our blood attach to protein molecules, diminishing their effectiveness and causing inflammation, says Dr. Oz. This process increases as we age. Glycosylation can lead to atherosclerosis, cataracts, loss of elasticity in skin, and arthritis. What to do: “Losing weight will immediately shift your body’s response to insulin and melt away the glycosylation,” says Dr. Oz. Exercise and a healthy diet are also important. Foods and supplements that can help include ginseng, cinnamon, tea, and chromium, which have been shown to help increase insulin receptivity and help lower the risk of aging from diabetes.

5. Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation

We all know that UV radiation from the sun damages skin and can lead to skin cancers. It also destroys your reserves of folic acid, necessary for your body to replicate DNA properly. But less attention is placed on the damage that UV radiation can do to your eyes. It can cause oxidative stress, which damages vision by clouding our lens (cataracts) and by damaging the delicate cells of the retina. It also oxidizes the pigments in the retina, decreasing the antioxidants in the back of the eye, meaning that these delicate cells are always at risk of being damaged through free radicals. Conditions like macular degeneration are caused when cells die from oxidative damage. Along with wearing UV-protective sunglasses, nutrition is important to rebuilding antioxidant stores to protect your eyes.

Dr. Oz recommends:

  • Lutein, found in spinach, leafy green vegetables, and corn. You can supplement at 1,000 mcg/day.

  • The eye cocktail. A National Institutes of Health study found that certain vitamins taken together can help prevent vision loss for those who have age-related macular degeneration. Researchers found a more than 25% reduction in risk of vision loss if they took 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 15 mg of beta-carotene, 80 mg of zinc, and 2 mg of copper every day in divided doses.