In a continuation of his critique of the Huffington Post’s health coverage, Dr. Rahul Parikh chastises the online news outlet and Oprah Winfrey favorite Dr. Christiane Northrup for a story Northrup posted trumpeting the “paradigm shift” brought about by the “exciting new” findings of what seems to be a 2006 study that showed large doses of vitamin D might decrease the risk of developing breast cancer. She called the study “preventative medicine at its finest.”
Parikh notes that while the study cited by Northrup does appear to support her claims, it was an observational study inconsistent with later research. Furthermore, the doses of vitamin D given in the study were twice the recommended allowance, thus increasing the risk of kidney-and-bone-damaging overdoses.
Parikh also questions Northrup’s recommendation that women “can even visit a tanning salon that offers UVB tanning rays,” for reasons which should be all too obvious.
Blogging on open.salon.com, Dr. Rahul Parikh recounts Oprah Winfrey’s recent defense of her medical advice (delivered to Entertainment Tonight) and challenges her attempt to dodge the responsibility for her messages and to instead put the onus on viewers to independently evaluate her recommendations.
First, Oprah’s statement:
“For 23 years, my show has presented thousands of topics that reflect the human experience, including doctors’ medical advice and personal health stories that have prompted conversations between our audience members and their health care providers. I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.”
Parikh takes issue with her stance, arguing that at this point it’s willfully ignorant of Oprah to deny the power she holds over her massive national audience. In support of this allegation, Parikh cites numerous examples of the “Oprah Effect” driving sales of books, products and health care and accuses the talk show host of putting ratings, profits and entertainment value above the health of her audience. Oprah’s defense is more of a dismissive cop-out than a rebuttal of charges brought by Newsweek, Parikh and others, and Parikh feels that, absent some dramatic life-changing event, real change in Winfrey’s presentation of health advice is unlikely.