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Let the buyer beware

I was commiserating with a friend about our various aches and pains when she asked if I had tried emu oil. She had heard television's Dr. Oz, a board certified cardiac surgeon, tout its success in treating everything from arthritis, sciatic nerve pain, Parkinson's disease, and hemorrhoids to high cholesterol, radiation burns, eczema, and psoriasis. Depending on what is being treated, the oil is rubbed into the skin or taken orally. Insufficient scientific data makes appropriate dosing challenging.

My rational side tells me emu oil is just another of those too good to be true "treatments." It's like buying into the idea that coconut oil can reverse Parkinson's symptoms, beef jerky can improve brain and memory function, and caffeine can slow disease progression.

My cursory online research revealed that the emu is a flightless bird that looks like an ostrich. During processing, its oil is refined from its fat, sterilized and then deodorized. Be aware that emu oil that is rendered, but not refined, may contain contaminants; and pure oil may be cut with soybean or canola oil to raise producers' profits. Labels read like ad copy for moonshine: "High Potency ultra-purified, molecularly distilled…"

By law, the FDA need not "approve" dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they reach store shelves. It falls to us to consult with our doctors before going this route. The hard and fast rule remains: "caveat emptor, let the buyer beware." For the time being, I've decided to sit this one out.

Sheryl and her emu



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