Arsenic, Apple Juice, and Unnecessary Anxiety: TV Docs Duke It Out

ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser takes his friend and Oprah’s medical wunderkind, Dr. Oz, to task.

By , Columnist

What’s up with Dr. Mehmet Oz’s eyebrows? I used to think he was handsome, but now, he looks like a Nip/Tuck accident. Perhaps it is the content of his shows. Maybe the fear-mongering that goes along with those raised eyebrows has got them stuck up there in "you better watch out, the big bad wolf is at the door" territory.

I really get tired of these TV talking heads who present subjects in such a way as to make us all think the world is coming to an end, this time because we are allegedly poisoning our kids with arsenic-laced apple juice.

I still think Dr. Richard Besser is handsome, but I don’t think that is coloring my perspective of this on-air squabble. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Dr. Besser called Dr. Oz to task after a recent show caused great anxiety among parents who give their kids apple juice — something practically all parents do.

Dr. Oz spoke with forked tongue, saying at once, "Don’t worry, there’s no short-term problem, but do worry because, over time, we are all going to become radioactive from drinking apple juice from China." Well, he didn’t really say that, but there is no doubt the segment was designed to generate fear. The cutaways to the concerned expressions of mothers in the audience were clearly designed to ratchet up the fear factor.

If you’ve seen 12 Monkeys or read Stephen King’s The Stand, then you know that civilization will probably end because of a globe-trotting bug that travels around the globe at the speed of a 747. In our highly-connected world economy, food safety is a legitimate concern, and I am not dismissing it, but context, please! Both doctors agree that we need to pay attention to our food supply because it’s global, and even though countries like China say they adhere to our FDA standards, we can’t really assure that. Last year it was lead in the paint on toys; this year it is arsenic in apple juice.

ABC News correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi had the last and best word when she concluded her report on arsenic in apple juice that preceded Diane Sawyer’s conversation with both doctors. “The bottom line though," she said, "most doctors we spoke to today say parents should be more worried about the sugar in that juice box than any toxin.”

I concur. Our kids are getting fatter every year—most of us are—and a big reason is we consume vast quantities of sugar, whether naturally occurring or added. If we pay attention to the number of calories we and our kids are consuming, then we’ll maintain a healthy weight and naturally occurring toxins and carcinogens won’t matter. Then all we’ll have to fear is Dr. Oz’s permanently raised eyebrows.

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For two years, Ken Brooks (Calorie Ken) was a volunteer in the Tufts University CALERIE Study. He is now a nutrition evangelist. Send your nutrition, weight management, general health and exercise questions to calorieken@gmail.com.

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