NOTE: My statements are not necessarily my opinions. I often post point-counterpoint essays in which I strongly take one side of an issue and later counter that with antithetical views. This intellectual exercise helps me see the merit in opposing opinions and augments my creativity.

FOX's Dr. Jennifer Ashton: She's a fox, but no Einstein

I recently saw Dr. Jennifer Ashton on FOX delivering what I thought was an unjustified minimalization of the importance of nutrition. I wondered if she had some financial incentive to say what she did, or if she were too busy staring in the mirror to learn more before she opened her mouth and misled the viewers on FOX who might assume that she really knows what she is talking about because she is a doctor.

Dr. Ashton is exceptionally attractive, and she evidently wants potential patients to know that, because her web site currently features a slide show with various large pictures of her. I wondered, “Is she a doctor? Or a model?” She's a doctor, alright, but I doubt that she graduated at the top of her class. If she did, why didn't she know the facts that I mentioned in my message to her? (see below) I don't understand how any doc who knew that info could give the report that she did.

I would be thrilled if Dr. Ashton were ethical enough to send a resignation letter to FOX in which she said the following:

“I am not the smartest doctor in the world, nor am I the most knowledgeable. I am, however, arguably the most attractive female physician on Earth, which is likely why you chose me over other candidates who have better brains but uglier bodies. While I appreciate your confidence in my ability to spellbind viewers, especially men, as a doctor I know that health is too important of a topic to have health presentations on your channel given by anyone except the best and the brightest. I am smart, but not the smartest, so please accept this resignation and, for heaven's sake, please stop pandering to the people who value beauty over brains.”

I discussed the Attractive Expert Syndrome on one of my web sites, explaining why society is almost invariably harmed when the selection criteria for experts includes their appearance.

Here is the message I sent to her:

I saw your report on vitamins this morning on FOX, and I am alarmed by your overall message. Are you aware of the prevalence of genetic mutations producing apoenzymes with decreased coenzyme binding affinity, as evidenced by their increased Michaelis constant (Km)? Are you aware that administering high doses of the vitamin component of the coenzyme can remedy or ameliorate about 50 (and likely far more) human genetic diseases by at least partially restoring enzyme activity? (Incidentally, this therapy is also useful in other cases, including polymorphisms that heighten disease risk, when a mutation affects the coenzyme binding site of the apoenzyme.) Did you know that a substantial percentage of people are affected by polymorphisms? Do you ever take complete dietary histories on patients? I've done this, which has given me remarkable insight into the junk that most people eat. I know that you must be a very busy person (aren't all doctors? :-), so here is a simple way to assess average nutritional intakes without any extra expenditure of time: Just look at what people buy in supermarkets! Many people obtain a substantial percentage of their daily caloric intake from refined sugars and foods that provide little nutritional value.

I've done enough TV and radio interviews myself to know that the need to give a "Cliffs Notes" version of the facts necessitates that the presentation be brief and therefore often lacking in essential information, so I am doing my best to not be overly harsh in judging your presentation today. However, it seemed to me that you had enough time to give a more balanced presentation than what you did.

I attended a medical school that stressed nutrition, yet even though I graduated in the top 1% of my class, I still think that I learned little about that subject — which is really just applied biochemistry and physiology. I've since worked hard to remedy that gap in my knowledge, so I likely know far more about this subject than an average physician, who'd probably say, "Michaelis what?" The more I learn, the more I realize that the average American diet does NOT provide optimal amounts of all vitamins and minerals at all times, nor does it provide optimal amounts of various phytochemicals that are conducive to health. I typically spend an hour every morning studying this subject. After years of doing it, I have acquired thousands of articles which bolster my case that average Americans could benefit greatly from improved nutrition in general — not just the few nutrients you singled out. If you disagree, I'd love to debate you. The loser pays $10,000 to the winner's favorite charity. Deal? :-)

Evidently not. She never responded.

So, FOX, how about replacing that fox with someone who knows more?

UPDATE: They apparently did. After several years of not seeing Dr. Ashton on FOX, I assume she no longer works for them.

Notes:

  1. We are much more unique than assumed: Computational biologists discover surprisingly strong effects from protein variation based on Common sequence variants affect molecular function more than rare variants?
  2. Millions of novel genetic variants found in 1000 Swedish individuals based on SweGen: a whole-genome data resource of genetic variability in a cross-section of the Swedish population
  3. Health News Stories On Local Television News Broadcasts Are Too Short
    Comment: Not just local broadcasts.
  4. Genetic mutations previously thought to affect only specific ethnic groups “are showing up in people whose ancestries have not been linked to that mutation before”: Expect the Unexpected: Rare Mutation Frequencies
    Comment: This would not surprise any logical person.
  5. Just one of many thousands of articles I could cite that demonstrates the importance of nutrition: Adaptive dysfunction of selenoproteins from the perspective of the triage theory: why modest selenium deficiency may increase risk of diseases of aging
  6. And another one: researchers found “that when mothers are even moderately undernourished while pregnant and breastfeeding, their offspring are consistently found to be prediabetic before adolescence.” (Link to original article)
  7. And another: Nutrition has benefits for brain network organization, new research finds based on Nutritional status, brain network organization, and general intelligence
    Excerpt (from first article): “A new study by University of Illinois researchers found that monounsaturated fatty acids—a class of nutrients found in olive oils, nuts and avocados—are linked to general intelligence, and that this relationship is driven by the correlation between MUFAs and the organization of the brain's attention network.”
    Excerpt (from second article):High blood levels of monounsaturated fatty acids are also associated with superior general intelligence.
    Comment: This is just one of myriad pieces of evidence explaining why I am exasperated by ignorant doctors who minimize the importance of nutrition or suggest the typical American diet is adequate. Hardly, and Americans are suffering because of it, with rampant physical and mental problems as well as disappointing cognitive performance. The Flynn effect is plateauing or even regressing, which is why Jim Tankersley's Washington Post article rings so true: Why America's middle class is lost: The middle class took America to the moon. Then something went horribly wrong.
    Ironic observation: People with second-rate intellects are the ones trivializing nutrition's importance. It is OBVIOUSLY crucial yet given short shrift. Instead of eating what is best for us, we eat what is tasty, convenient, and affordable. I invented a very surprising solution to this and will try to commercialize it.
  8. 'Rare' Genetic Variants Are Surprisingly Common, Life Scientists Report based on An Abundance of Rare Functional Variants in 202 Drug Target Genes Sequenced in 14,002 People
  9. Rare Genetic Variants Create 'Synthetic' Genome-Wide Signals of Disease Risk* based on Rare Variants Create Synthetic Genome-Wide Associations and Common Disease, Multiple Rare (and Distant) Variants
    *Excerpt: “Scientists at Duke University Medical Center say they are now convinced that rare genetic variants—as opposed to more common ones—lie at the heart of the genetic component of most common diseases.”
  10. Gene Variant That Raises Risk for Colorectal Cancer from Eating Processed Meat Present in One-In-Three People
  11. Slew of Rare DNA Changes Following Population Explosion May Hold Clues to Common Diseases* based on Evolution and Functional Impact of Rare Coding Variation from Deep Sequencing of Human Exomes
    *Excerpt: “One-letter switches in the DNA code occur much more frequently in human genomes than anticipated …”
  12. Genetic variants found to play key role in human immune system: Genetic differences in immune response demonstrate interaction of genetics and environment linked to disease risk
  13. Rare and Common Genetic Variations Responsible for High Triglyceride Levels in Blood based on Excess of rare variants in genes identified by genome-wide association study of hypertriglyceridemia
  14. Rare Mitochondrial Mutations – Maybe Not So Rare? Comprehensive Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA Will Aid Early Diagnosis
  15. Large Reservoir Of Mitochondrial DNA Mutations Identified In Humans
  16. Wide Range of Differences, Mostly Unseen, Among Humans
    Excerpt: “The study's findings suggest that, with respect to diversity in protein function, the individual differences between two people are greater than previously assumed.”
  17. Healthy diet? That depends on your genes
  18. New Testing Strategy Detects Population-Wide Vitamin, Mineral Deficiencies
  19. Vitamin therapy may help prevent melanoma
    Excerpt: “Nicotinamide can help reduce or reverse DNA damage, inflammation, and immunosuppression caused by ultraviolet radiation.”
    Comment: Considering that, might nicotinamide also reduce wrinkling and other signs of photoaging?
  20. Europeans Do Not Consume Enough Vitamins, Minerals
  21. Surprising Variation Among Genomes of Individual Neurons from Same Brain
  22. More on somatic genetic variation: Novel Genetic Patterns May Make Us Rethink Biology and Individuality based on Recurrent Tissue-Specific mtDNA Mutations Are Common in Humans
  23. Personal Antidepressant for Every Genome based on Genome-wide expression profiling of human lymphoblastoid cell lines implicates integrin beta-3 in the mode of action of antidepressants
  24. Scientists find genetic mechanism linking aging to specific diets
    Excerpt: “These studies have revealed that single gene mutations can alter the ability of an organism to utilize a specific diet. In humans, small differences in a person's genetic makeup that change how well these genes function, could explain why certain diets work for some but not others.”
  25. DNA of peanut-allergic kids changes with immune therapy, study finds based on Peanut oral immunotherapy results in increased antigen-induced regulatory T-cell function and hypomethylation of forkhead box protein 3 (FOXP3)
  26. Researchers pilot predictive medicine by studying healthy people's DNA
    Excerpt: “"We were surprised that this many individuals had positive findings …"”
  27. People with forms of early-onset Parkinson's disease may benefit from boosting niacin in diet, research suggests
The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

Comments (1)

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Comment #177 by Anonymous
August 22 2011 09:50:24 AM

I understand what she says about her beauty, but even you do not tell what those wart-like marks are on her face?

REPLY FROM KEVIN PEZZI: What “wart-like marks”? I don't know what you are talking about, and even if I did, any physical imperfections she may possess are irrelevant. I did not intend this topic to be a forum for bashing Dr. Ashton any way we can, but to highlight the fact that while she is clearly a smart doctor, she isn't the brightest, so she should step aside and let a more qualified physician into the limelight.

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