Tea Health Authorities Are Not Created Equal

Lots of health claims are out there for tea, and some tea sites even make an effort to substantiate these claims by citing various experts. One of these is Dr. Sanjay Gupta, an assistant professor of neurosurgery.

“Well, well,” I first thought on seeing him pop up on a particular site, “at last, a medical man backing up these claims.” Then, I dug deeper.

Dr. Gupta has done what Dr. Joyce Brothers did: make himself a very public media figure. (Dr. Brothers appeared on TV boundless times, including a memorable cameo spot on Frasier.) And don’t even get me started on Dr. Phil (is there a channel he’s not on?).

Some of Dr. Gupta’s “healthcare” activities:

  • Appearing before Congress all aghast that 84,000 chemicals are around us every day and that their effects on our bodies haven’t been studied. (Psst! Dr. Gupta! Our bodies are chemicals! In fact, everything is chemicals!)
  • Posing for photos more often than he appears in an operating room or a classroom (he’s even described in a political article as having a “photogenic smile”) — at least it seems that way with the hundreds of posed photos of him online.
  • Appearing numerous times on CNN (yeah, they get their scientific reporting right every time — not!) as a paid medical correspondent (I saw a statement that he was chosen based in large part on his appearance).
  • Being on Twitter (well, there’s probably a paid intern doing this).
  • Withdrawing his name for consideration as Surgeon General under the current White House Administration. (Don’t get too excited. He wasn’t rushing back out of the media spotlight. It was probably because he’s such good buddies with Hilary Clinton and spent a year as her medical advisor.)
  • Appearing on CNN to make a statement about how Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords survived her gunshot wound to the head. (The statement was so uninsightful that I was tempted to hurl something at the screen, but reconsidered just in time.)
  • Filming his cameo appearance on Contagion with Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

After seeing all this, a few things came to mind:

  • How does he have time to practice or teach medicine? (I thought it was “Publish or perish,” not “Pose pretty for the cameras and say silly things or perish.”)
  • His cameo appearance gives new meaning to the phrase, “I’m not a doctor. I just play one on TV.”
  • One has to wonder about his alma mater, the University of Michigan. Didn’t they teach him that we are all made of chemicals and that doctors and the media are not a good mix?

But seriously, folks, I would have been much more impressed if the tea site had quoted people who had actually conducted the studies of tea health effects, instead of this media attention seeker. Please don’t misunderstand. I support his right to choose how to live his life. He could plaster posters of himself along every street in America (as long as he respected the property owners’ rights) or put up a big electric sign in Times Square with his “photogenic smile” beaming down on us all (and paid the electric bill himself). But the tea site’s choice for him as an authority on tea benefits is not the best. In fact, it calls their assertions into question. Sometimes, quoting unreliable sources is worse than quoting none.

P.S. — I didn’t link to some of the articles because I don’t want to get them any kind of promotion. Ditto for why I didn’t link to the tea site that quotes him.

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