Dr. Mehmet Oz spent Tuesday in meeting with the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance. Oz came under question for many of the claims he has made on his popular television program, “The Dr. Oz Show,” particularly claims about weight loss supplements he has recommended to his viewers. The celebrity doctor has a history of promoting useless supplements, fooling consumers into spending money on unproven products.
Dr. Oz has made a living off of the fact that nutritional supplements are not subject to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, allowing wild claims to be made and supplements to be sold wholesale without product testing. In the era of “One Weird Trick” weight loss solutions, and with the credibility of being one of America’s top heart transplant surgeons, Oz has made money by offering easy solutions to complex problems.
One such item is one of the supplements that was brought up in his Senate meeting, green coffee beans. The extract of these beans contains a chemical known as chlorogenic acid, something that may or may not have an actual affect on body mass. While green coffee beans have been connected to weight loss in one study, another found no correlation. However, that did not stop Dr. Oz from referring to the extract as a miracle on his show.
Oz’s language is his biggest tool. “The Dr. Oz Show” leads viewers to believe that he is straddling the line between modern medicine and homeopathy, when he has actually erased that line and put up a for sale sign instead. There is much to be said for Oz’s goal of wanting patients to be as comfortable in an exam room as doctors are, but words like “miracle” and “revolutionary” are marketing terms, not medical.
There are many things Oz does well, but showmanship is his top skill. He really does seem to genuinely care about people, and he is still a practicing heart surgeon. However, in spite of his extensive medical training, he continues to promote things that he really does not seem to even believe in himself. In front of the Senate, he used much more sober language about the green coffee extract, saying it was “worth trying.” There was no audience to rile up, and so the enthusiasm for the product completely dissipated. Personally, he does not partake in any of the fads he claims are solutions. Oz attempts to dazzle, and moves on to the next miraculous solution before he can be called out on the last.
The real danger is not that Dr. Oz is offering up harmful products, but that he taking away the legitimacy of real medicine by laying it out alongside pseudoscience. Oz may not make money on the supplements he hawks, but he makes money on an incredibly successful television show that is fueled by offering simple solutions to complex problems. Acknowledging the need to eat healthy and exercise is almost pointless after one has been told they can solve their blood pressure issues with cocoa powder. Dr. Oz makes his money by selling false hope.
Oz perhaps realizes that it can be difficult to stand out in the media with straightforward and sensible advice, when the same thing can be heard from any doctor. However, it is still irresponsible to offer up useless diet aids as science, misinterpret research, or to present completely false information as a fair alternative. He may think he is the usher of an era of patient driven medical care, and a common friend of homeopathy and modern medicine. Rather, he is an enemy to both.
Opinion by Brian Moore