Dr. Mehmet Oz, the eponymous doctor in The Dr. Oz Show, was grilled in a hearing today on his role in promoting faulty weight loss pills.
The Senate's consumer protection panel brought Oz to task for tacitly encouraging the use of medically dubious products and, albeit unintentionally, contributing to a surge in the sale of scammy weight-loss products. The panel described a "Dr. Oz effect," in which an item mentioned by Oz on the show leads to a huge spike in sales of the often-sketchy product. The Associated Press offers an example:
Within weeks of Oz's comments about green coffee — which refers to the unroasted seeds or beans of coffee — a Florida-based operation began marketing a dietary supplement called Pure Green Coffee, with claims that the chlorogenic acid found in the beans could help people lose 17 pounds and cut body fat by 16 percent in 22 weeks. The company, according to federal regulators, featured footage from "The Dr. Oz Show" to sell its supplement.
Oz, who did not give Pure Green Coffee permission to use his name and saw no profit from the sales, considers himself to be a victim in this situation and others like it. But that defense wasn't all that convincing to the members of the panel, who went after him pretty relentlessly. Senator Claire McCaskill led the attack, first throwing some back-handed compliments his way:
I can't figure this out, Dr. Oz. I get that you do a lot of good on your show. I understand that you give a lot of information that's great information about health and you do it in a way that's easily understandable. You're very talented, you're obviously very bright, you've been trained in science-based medicine.
And then bringing up some of the cringe-worthy things he's said about weight loss: products:
Now, here's three statements you made on your show: "You may think magic is make believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they've found the magic weight loss cure for every body type, it's green coffee extract." Quote: "I've got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat. It's raspberry ketone." Quote: "Garcinia cambogia, it may be the simple solution you've been looking for to bust your body fat for good."
She concluded, "I don't get why you need to say this stuff because you know it's not true." Oz's weak defense basically came down to an acknowledgement that television and sound medical advice don't really mix (emphasis ours):
I actually do personally believe in the items that I talk about on the show. I passionately study them. I recognize that oftentimes they don’t have the scientific muster to pass as fact... My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience. And when they don't think they have hope, when they don't think they can make it happen I want to look everywhere, including at alternative healing traditions for any evidence that might be supportive to them.
Oz said he wants to help battle the drug sellers, and is considering issuing a list of products he actually does endorse. Which makes us wonder which brand is the most trusted seller of "diet" and "exercise."