Dr. Oz and Apple Juice

Dr. Richard Besser, the ABC News Health and Medical Editor, had a confrontation with Dr. Oz on “Good Morning America.” Besser basically accused Oz of fear mongering. The argument was about a recent episode of Dr. Oz, where the good doctor tested apple juice for arsenic and found trace levels.

This was not news to the most folks in the medical field:

Scientists say arsenic is a naturally occurring substance, and is so abundant in the Earth’s soil that it often ends up in many of the foods we eat. However, experts make a distinction between this abundant organic arsenic, which is harmless, and inorganic arsenic, which can be found in some pesticides and other chemicals.

“It is the inorganic form of arsenic in the environment that is toxic and measuring total arsenic is not informative,” said Aaron Barchowsky, a professor of environmental health at the University of Pittsburgh, who has studied the toxicity of arsenic in drinking water for 15 years.

A producer for the “Dr. Oz Show” said their apple juice tests measured total arsenic levels and did not distinguish between organic and inorganic arsenic.

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My opinion of Dr. Oz just continues to sink.

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  • Michael

    Mehmet Oz is indeed manufacturing a crisis here, and Besser is right to call him out on this. I’m glad to see how furious he is, because what he is doing is, while perhaps quite common, frankly outrageous. All apples contain arsenic and despite his vague claims, there is no evidence whatsoever that the amount of organic arsenic in apples is at all dangerous.

  • vasaroti

    Arsenic is an element. Needless to say, it doesn’t contain carbon, and is thus inorganic. If Dr. Oz and Barchowsky are trying to talk about common compounds that contain the element arsenic, please name them… or STFU. The mere presence of a carbon atom doesn’t determine the toxicity of a molecule.

    • Devysciple

      Ahemm… But you can add ‘compound’, which would indeed make more sense.

    • Michael

      “Inorganic arsenic” refers to inorganic arsenic-containing compounds, and “organic arsenic” refers to organic arsenic-containing compounds. This is commonly used terminology, and your ignorance of it does not make the speakers any less informed. There is a huge variety of arsenic compounds, so naming specific ones is not particularly helpful here.

  • UrsaMinor

    Scientific illiteracy in journalism? What a surprise!

    Apples can indeed contain arsenic; the trees draw it in from the soil from natural sources, and from the residue of arsenic-based pesticides that haven’t been used in decades. The question, of course, is how much, and in what form. It’s not enough to just yell “Arsenic!”

    If you want to worry about toxic threats, it should be noted that apples contain potentially lethal amounts of cyanide-generating compounds like amygdalin, which they cheerfully and naturally manufacture on their own. Lucky for us, it’s mostly in the seeds, and it’s not terribly bioavailable unless the seed is crushed and/or roasted.

  • bigjohn756

    Apple seeds, as well as other seeds and pits, contain cyanide not arsenic. I wonder where the arsenic is coming from. My guess is that it is in the water used in making the juice. My local water supply delivers water with about 0.0006 ppm of arsenic. The EPA standard limits arsenic content to 0.010 ppm. I can’t find any definitive reference to the levels of arsenic that the cardiac surgeon Dr. Oz found in apple juice.

    • Michael

      It probably does not come from the water, because assuming these companies are using tap water to make the juice from concentrate, the levels of arsenic detected in this juice far exceed the maximum allowable levels in the water supply.

      More likely, it was in the apples, which the tree drew up from the roots, as UrsaMinor said. As I understand it, most fruit, and especially apples, contains organic arsenic at some level, and the results Dr. Oz found are not remotely surprising.

      • gringa

        …So parents should dilute the juice with tap water. That’s what pediatricians recommend anyway to reduce sugar consumption. Reduced risk of arsenic consumption, sugar consumption, and obesity – problem solved.

  • TrickQuestion

    pfft…i learned form the 80′s “GI JOE” that apples have poison in them.

    • Sunny Day

      Go Joe!

    • http://lydiafromtexas.wordpress.com/ LRA

      Wait… what? I thought that was “Snow White”.

      • Elemenope

        The proper reaction to apples is:


  • Noelle

    I hate Dr. Oz

    • Noelle

      and Dr. Phil

      • http://theskippyreview.wordpress.com Skippy

        And Oprah for foisting those scourges upon us.

        • Nelly

          hear hear

  • kholdom0790

    Dr. Oz creeps me right out. He’s so touchy with his female audience participants.

    • kholdom0790

      Looks heaps crankier here than on TV too.

  • swmr1

    I was watching something the other day and saw the promo for Dr. Oz’s apple juice show. The preview alone made my eyes roll. Are people really so stupid as to watch an over-the-top and in-your-face scare tactic teaser and not know that’s exactly what it is? When did America get so dumb???

    • http://theskippyreview.wordpress.com Skippy


      • Hamish Milne


  • Chuck

    Arsenic in apples or apple products? I’m not worried. Plenty of things to be worried about. This isn’t one of them. Can it be harmful? Sure. SO can eating too many candy bars. As for how it got there, remember the Chinese milk scare? China uses arsenic in pesticides. Many juices come from overseas.

    • UrsaMinor

      The U.S. used to use arsenic in pesticides. It didn’t all just go away, a lot it went into the ground, and a good portion of it has stayed there. Some smaller portion of that gets taken up by the tree. Granted, you will get less arsenic in your apples this way than if you spray it on directly, but it remains a long-term contamination problem. The major impact of arsenic pesticides has been to contaminate underground water supplies, though.

  • Paul

    Why not present the evidence that shows an increase in detrimental effects of ingesting “arsenic”? Seems a simple thing to me, if there is a threat then there should be evidence of the threat.

  • Hamish Milne

    Recent studies suggest that ingesting small amounts of ‘toxic’ substances can increase resilience to their effects (BBC Focus at some point). Nuff said.

    • Sunny Day

      It only works with iocane powder.

    • blotonthelandscape

      I wonder about claims like this. There seems to be another possibility; that ingesting small amounts of toxic substances reveals whether or not you have a strong constitution toward those substances.

      I presume “small doses” are still large enough to be considered poison.

      • UrsaMinor

        It’s a very old folk theory. And, like the impetus theory of motion, it’s wrong. There are a couple of things in real life that vaguely approximate it- e.g. the way that vaccines work and the way you build up a tolerance to alkaloids like nicotine and caffeine- but it’s not a very close fit.

        • blotonthelandscape

          Thanks. Smelt fishy. How woul you test for that anyway?

          • UrsaMinor

            The procedure in its simplest form would require two groups of people- one exposed to sublethal doses of Substance X, and then other a control group not exposed to it. Then after some period of time, you feed both groups increasing amounts of Substance X, and note the dosages that induce mortality. A simple statistical regression of the dosages at which death occurs will tell you if the outcome of the two groups differs significantly.

            Good luck getting that approved by an institutional review board.

        • Len

          It’s a bit like the way homeopathetic treatments for allergies work – get used to a small amount and over time you are less affected by the normal amounts found in every day life.