Dr. Oz sent to the woodshed by a U.S. senator

“Doctor Oz,” whose real name is Mehmet Cengiz Öz, is a cardiovascular surgeon who is famous—or rather infamous—for touting “alternative medicine” on his television show. Like the psychologist “Dr. Phil,” Dr. Oz was launched by Oprah Winfrey, and became sufficiently popular to warrant his own show, “The Dr. Oz Show.” He’s also written several bestselling books. His notoriety comes from endorsing questionable cures, especially products that supposedly help with weight loss. But he’s endorsed a lot of other woo, too. As Wikipedia notes:

Popular Science and The New Yorker have expressed criticism of Oz for his non-scientific advice. These criticisms include questioning if he is “doing more harm than good”. In an article in Slate, a medical researcher said that Oz’s work bordered on quackery. The James Randi Educational Foundation has given Oz its Pigasus Award for Refusal to Face Reality at least three times. Oz has been supportive of pseudosciences such as faith healing, homeopathy and psychic communication with the dead. In 2011 Independent Investigations Group awarded The Truly Terrible Television award to Oz and Oprah Winfrey “for extraordinary contributions to America’s scientific illiteracy and pervasive fear mongering.”

Yesterday, Dr. Oz testified before Congress, or rather, before Senator Claire McCaskill’s (Democrat, Missouri) Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Product Safety. As Chris Morran reports at Consumerist, and as you can see in the video below (it’s long!), Oz was given a public spanking for making questionable claims.  Oz tried to defend himself, but he was lame.

A few snippets from the piece:

[McCaskill} went straight for Dr. Oz’s jugular in her opening remarks on this morning’s hearing about the false and deceptive advertising of weight-loss products.

“When you feature a product on your show, it creates what has become known as ‘Oz Effect,’ dramatically boosting sales and driving scam artists to pop up overnight using false and deceptive ads to sell questionable products,” the Senator explained. “I’m concerned that you are melding medical advice, news and entertainment in a way that harms consumers.”

. . . Sen. McCaskill quoted three statements that the great and doctorful Oz had made about different weight-loss treatments on his show:

•(On green coffee extract) — “You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they found the magic weight-loss for every body type.”

•(On raspberry ketone) — “I’ve got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat” (raspberry ketone)

•(On garcinia cambogia) — “It may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”

“I don’t get why you say this stuff, because you know it’s not true,” said McCaskill. “So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?”

. . . the Senator wasn’t going to let him off the hook.

“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products that you called miracles,” she told the doctor. “And when you call a product a miracle and it’s something that you can buy and it’s something that gives people false hope, I just don’t understand why you need to go there.”

Dr. Oz countered ineffectually:

Dr. Oz openly admitted that the weight-loss treatments he mentions on the show are frequently “crutches… You won’t get there without diet and exercise,” and that while he believes in the research he’s done, the research done on these treatments would probably not pass FDA muster.

“If the only message I gave was to eat less and move more — which is the most important thing people need to do — we wouldn’t be very effectively tackling this complex challenge because viewers know these tips and they still struggle,” said the doctor. “So we search for tools and crutches; short-term supports so that people can jumpstart their programs.”

“Tools and crutches”?  Really, will taking green coffee extract act as a sort of placebo, but one that will motivate people to do the real work needed to lose weight: stop eating so much and get more exercise? Oz just kept rabbiting on, emphasizing how much care he takes to protect his reputation (such as it is) and to keep people from using his name to sell their products.

“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 wanna look — and I do look — everywhere… for any evidence that might be supportive to them,” explained Oz, who believes that products like green coffee extract jumpstart someone’s weight loss program and “gives you the confidence to keep going, and then you start to follow the things that we talk about every single day — including those seven items [on the FTC Gut Check list].”

The problem is that stuff like raspberry ketones and green-coffee-bean extract give people false hopes. I wonder if people have really used those products as crutches in the way Dr. Oz characterizes them. In fact, he doesn’t present them as placebos, but as things that work by themselves to take off weight, so he’s actively misleading people. “Evidence” is not evidence if there’s no good research behind it.

Finally, in one exchange McCaskill, who is relentless, takes Dr. Oz down several notches:

Throughout his testimony, Dr. Oz repeatedly reminded the subcommittee that he has to do constant damage [sic] reputation — along with taking legal action against some scammers — because of the people who abuse his enthusiastic statements for their own ends. However, the Senator was not exactly moved to tears.

“I know you feel that you’re a victim, but sometimes conduct invites being a victim,” concluded McCaskill. “I think that if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn’t be victimized quite as frequently.”

Sound familiar?

Here’s all of Dr. Oz’s testimony, but it’s 1.5 hours long. Click on the screenshot to go to the C-Span video:

Screen shot 2014-06-18 at 7.24.03 AM

Kudos to Senator McCaskill for being so forthright and aggressive. Obesity is a huge problem in the U.S. (the high percentage of overweight Americans is one of the first thing foreigners notice when visiting our country) and there’s no miracle cure for it save the onerous operation of bariatric surgery (shrinking the stomach).

h/t: Grania, Hempenstein

69 Comments

  1. moarscienceplz
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    “”Tools and crutches”? Really, will taking green coffee extract act as a sort of placebo, but one that will motivate people to do the real work needed to lose weight: stop eating so much and get more exercise?”

    It might. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see Dr. Oz taken off the air because of the black eye he gives Science, but this argument reminded me of a study that found that people who buy fuel-efficient cars, especially ones that have real-time displays of miles per gallon, actually start driving in a more fuel-efficient manner. So, if someone was convinced that a bottle of pills they just shelled out $50 for was going to help them lose weight, they might subconsciously try to “help” the pills by exercising more and eating less. Unfortunately, I suspect that even if this is true, that most people will revert to their old habits eventually, but it might be a good strategy for some people.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      In my admittedly limited experience people rely on the pills a heck of a lot more than they are motivated to actually exercise and eat better.

      Part of the typical sell is that you don’t have to do as much exercise, and you don’t have to change your diet too much.

      You can look like this totally ripped person here with just 15 minutes of exercise a day, and this newly discovered ancient health potion.

      It takes at least 15 minutes to even warm up, let alone exercise. Nearly all of it is complete bunk. There are a small percentage of supplements that can provide moderate enhancement when used properly. And I don’t know of any that have any significant effects unless you also diet and or exercise diligently. Though the day something like that is available proabably isn’t too far away.

      What makes this worse is that relatively new research has confirmed that their is a wide spectrum of how peoples’ bodies respond to exercise. In at least one study the researchers were able to model this so well that from a relatively simple DNA test looking at a particular small set of genes they could rather precisely determine how well, or not, your body responds to exercise. The range is from “thinks about exercise and becomes more fit” to literally no matter how much exercise is done there is no significant improvement in fitness. In other words, there are a lot of people out there that can not significantly improve their fitness no matter what they do. Maybe some future gene therapy, but certainly nothing currently available.

      • Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:11 am | Permalink

        “to literally no matter how much exercise is done there is no significant improvement in fitness.”

        This is hard to believe, and I think it’s misleading labeling.

        What is meant here by “how much exercise is done” is vague and deceptive. It seems that “exercise” here is used to label undefined activities that don’t involve muscular work, increasing heart rate and oxygen intake and consumption.

        The vague term of “exercise” could be applied to time when people “think” that they are “exercising”, whereas in fact they may barely be able to move because of their enormous girth. Some might even think that the fact of getting up from their couch, or armchair, and taking a few steps around the room to get to the TV set or go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, or even go down to the mailbox to get the mail, might be called “exercising”.

        Those people are probably incapable of running every day for 15′ or 30′ on a treadmill or outside in the park. If they could, and did, no matter what they claim, they couldn’t prevent some increase in strength and endurance (which is called fitness) and even some weight loss. Assuming that they are not using that bit of activity to eat more.

        • darrelle
          Posted June 19, 2014 at 6:14 am | Permalink

          I can understand it is hard to believe, but it isn’t for me.

          1) From personal experience, there have been many people I have seen regularly for months or even years exercising at the same gym I use that show no noticable improvement.

          2) The information I briefly related is from a study that seemed to be fairly respectable when I reviewed it some time ago. Let me try and find something on it for you.

          That was easier than I thought. Here is a link to A Relevant Study.

          There was a PBS, or maybe it was BBC, documentary about the latest in legitimate fitness research that aired a year or so ago that had a segment about this study, and several other related studies.

          • jboscarino
            Posted June 26, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

            The reason these people at the gym aren’t getting results (losing weight) is because they aren’t pushing themselves hard enough. Half the people who go to the gym might as well stay home and sit on the couch, because they’re expending about the same amount of energy as they do when they’re on the couch. Just jogging on a treadmill at a moderate pace or doing reps of a weight amount that one can do endlessly will not get you results. It actually takes hard work. People are just too lazy. They don’t like pain. Working out hard is tough. Then they wonder why they don’t get results.

          • jboscarino
            Posted June 26, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

            That’s because they’re not working out nearly as hard as they need to. Jogging at a moderate pace on a treadmill or lifting too light weights foreve, such that you aren’t pushing yourself to at least close to muscle failure and/or cardiovascular exhaustion, is not much more effective than sitting at home on your couch. And then you wonder why they don’t get results after all those years. I saw that documentary. It didn’t say you COULDN’T get results through exercise after a certain poin, under certain circumstances, for certain types of people. It said that the exercise approach needed to be modified and more intense depending on the individual.

            • darrelle
              Posted June 26, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

              What you’ve said is certainly true about / for many people. A large percentage of people don’t make a serious effort to exercise. And most trainers don’t have a clue about how to train either. Which probably contributes to some people giving up their attempt to develop an exercise habit due to lack of results or injury. My observation skills are reasonably good and it is not too difficult to see the differences between people that put no serious effort into their exercise vs those that do.

              But that does not apply to everyone. There are, verifiably now, people that are not capable of significant improvement in fitness. It has nothing to do with their attitude, desire or experience. It is a genetic predisposition. And it is not on or off, it is a spectrum. And there are, recently, known ways to quantify how responsive a person’s body is to exercise, i.e. where they fall on the spectrum, via genetic testing.

              Please note “significant” doesn’t mean “none,” and is certainly a bit subjective. I meant it as comparison of the numbers from each end of the spectrum.

              And, no, we apparently did not see the same documentary. Perhaps the doc you saw had something about the same or similar, research. The doc I referred did not say anything like what you related here. The point was in fact, and deliberately, just the opposite. The intensity of exercise had no significant effect on the fitness of people at the low end of the spectrum.

              I am not relying solely on the documentary, but on research like the paper I referenced above and similar.

            • Posted June 26, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

              You’ve got it nailed.

              What was left vague in that sweeping statement about some genetic obstacle to any relationship between “exercise” and “fitness” is the physical connotations implied in the words “exercise” and “fitness”.

              If “exercise” is nothing more than continuing with your stable, habitual, level of activity and energy expenditure, it is clear that what you’re doing is NOT exercising, but enjoying same humdrum routine activity, and your level of “fitness” (strength and endurance) is certainly not going to change.

              If there is a real genetic obstacle, it’s not about improving fitness, it’s about doing any real kind of exercising. They’re condemned to stay the same as they are, because they cannot do any more than what they are already doing. These people cannot move to the next level of exertion and spend more energy. They can walk 300 yards, but they cannot walk a mile.

              If you can walk half a mile easily, try to go up to 1 mile, then 2, and then gradually to 5 miles, for, say, 6 months to a years, and let’s see if your endurance, oxygen intake, and even strength in your calves and glutei have not changed.

              If walking is too easy, forget it, and try running 1, then 2, then 5 miles every day for 6 months, and let’s see if nothing changes.

              5 miles too easy, because you’re so well conditioned? Well, try 10 miles, and do a 20-miler on week-ends, for 6 months to a year (best way to train for a marathon, by the way). And let’s see if your fitness doesn’t change.

              Make good, honest, measurements, and send results to the Sports research scientists at Mt Sinai hospital in New York City.

    • Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      That’s part of the placebo effect and doctors are ethically obligated to practice at a higher level than relying on the placebo effect since it has only short term effects that are not reliable and taking drugs without known safety profiles can be dangerous.

    • Trophy
      Posted June 19, 2014 at 2:26 am | Permalink

      So, if someone was convinced that a bottle of pills they just shelled out $50 for was going to help them lose weight, they might subconsciously try to “help” the pills by exercising more and eating less.

      Or they could just reduce their exercise because now they take ‘magic pills’. Or they could eat more because they ‘deserve a cake’ after putting down those 50$ for the bottle of snakeoil.

      The bottom line is that it is impossible to know how people react to placebos unless someone empiriically studies them and I’m guessing studies will prove they are not really useful at all.

  2. rickflick
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    It is just sad that there are so many people who are dishonest and fraudulent and who are willing to fluff there own nests at the expense of the weak and vulnerable. It is somewhat more disheartening that society at large has done very little to alleviate this problem. Hooray for McCaskill. But will there ever be a true remedy? The government agency representative on the same panel spoke about having prosecuted a few hundred cases of false advertising to the tune of a few hundred million in fines. But the industry is operates in the 10’s of Billions of dollars. Makes me sad about the society I live in that nothing more can be done than a public wrist slap.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      “But will there ever be a true remedy?”

      Education, education, education.

      But apparently some people are immune to that.

      Also–hooray for McCaskill indeed!

  3. Blue
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I have long, long, long believed ‘hope’ to be a woman – killer. On all fronts and in all aspects of life including woo and placebos – of or for any genre thereof. And I trust no one who seems to employ ‘it’ as an end – all for any sort o’ hardship – matters.

    Some time ago now Mr Jensen published this – http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/170.

    Dr Oz and others of his ilk need to heed same: “And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.”

    Reality … … gets the work done.
    Blue

  4. davidintoronto
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Any chance Chopra might face the same Congressional committee? ;)

    • Hempenstein
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      They’d need an interpreter.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      You can test green coffee extract in the lab because it at least has some substance to work on.
      The stuff that Repact Oprah sells? Not so much.

    • jboscarino
      Posted June 26, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Yea he needs one too. What a bull*******.

  5. jredwood
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    It’s good to see someone in government standing up for consumers. How about some laws with teeth in them next?

  6. Alex T
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I don’t think these well-meaning (?) promoters give enough consideration to how damaging it can be when false hope finally gets revealed.

    Weight loss is a long-term process and requires making real lifestyle changes. That’s not easy. It’s not impossible and it doesn’t require as much self-discipline and abstinence that some people imagine, but it isn’t glamorous and it is definitely work. It’s hard beginning the process and it’s sometimes hard keeping it up. I’m concerned that if people try these easy steps of miracle fads and go through the disillusionment and sense of failure that are almost certain to follow, they won’t be willing to try the harder steps. They’ve learned that the “experts” can’t be trusted and that even small, simple steps lead to disappointment so why would they take an even bigger commitment?

    I think there are reasons to hope and be optimistic which are grounded in reality. You don’t need to promise false hope. The short-term buzz wears off quickly to be replaced with an even deeper sense of failure.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Yes. The hardest thing is keeping it up. That’s because you have to make permanent changes to your behavior if you want the changes in your fitness to be permanent. It is similar to overcoming alcoholism or other types of addictive behavior. Making permanent changes to long term conditioned behavior.

      People often misunderstand diets as well. There two basic categories, diets that are only useful to achieve particular short term goals, and diets that are more general prescriptions for how to eat for the rest of your life. Most people can do the first kind, but many can’t make significant lasting changes to the second.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      The most lucrative lie in advertising is Florine Marks’ ‘You can eat your favourite foods!’™
      You’d think that anyone with a half brain would know that it’s eating your favourite foods that made you fat in the first place.

      • Posted June 18, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        You just didn’t read the fine print: “once a month, and at a quarter of the portion size you’re used to.”

        • Kevin Alexander
          Posted June 19, 2014 at 2:25 am | Permalink

          I didn’t have my reading glasses on.
          The fine print actually says ‘In your dreams’

  7. Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Kudos indeed to Sen McCaskill, but it begs the question as to why Dr Oz has not received reprimands from his respective medical society, university faculty and hospital ethics board. His habits and practices violate several ethical norms in medicine.

  8. mordacious1
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I think that these weight loss supplements have the ability to drastically change the lives of people who are overweight or obese. They can miraculously take someone who is fat and turn them into someone who is poor and fat.

    But seriously, Oz ignores the negative consequences that these “crutches” have on people. When airbags first came out, safety researchers noticed two phenomena: People started wearing their seat belts less often and many of them drove faster and more recklessly. The same holds true for weight loss gimmicks. “It’s okay, I can have that milkshake, I’ll just take my green coffee extract…”

    • Alex T
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Absolutely.

      This is actually a difficult thing with weight loss in general. Biking for about 25 minutes only burns off the calories in a single Coke. If you drank a bottle of Gatorade instead (because you’re all buff & stuff) you would have drank more than you burned!

      When simply eating the wrong post-workout snacks can wipe out a half-hour of benefits, yeah, even small treats you give yourself because you’re taking some miracle supplement can make a big difference.

      • darrelle
        Posted June 18, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        I am not arguing your main point, which I agree with completely, but just wanted to point out that direct calories burnt while exercising vs calories consumed is not the whole picture.

        Changes in your metabolism caused by exercise, or lack of it, can be a more significant factor. For example, weight training increases your metabolism for an extended period of time (24 plus hours), compared to a typical cardio work out which only raises the metabolism during to shortly after the exercise. That is general of course, there are all kinds of details.

        • Alex T
          Posted June 18, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

          Point taken.

          I understood that individual metabolic rate is very difficult to calculate. To what extent does this significantly influence individuals when planning their activity & diet? Is this something that changes over days, months or years?

          I’m guessing that doing a food journal would establish a metabolic baseline (and raise awareness), so how often should dieters be doing this to account for changing metabolic rates?

          • Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:28 am | Permalink

            The answer is: they have to keep a journal every day, of times, amount of exercise done, food consumed, weight measured, with computations of calories taken in. It becomes a secondary day job.
            It is laborious and tedious, and can be done only with a high level of motivation and a lot of knowledge.

        • jboscarino
          Posted June 26, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

          Yes true to an extent, but that does not mean that a proper disciplined workout regimen strictly followed can’t facilitate weight loss.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 26, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

            Tell that to a menopausal woman or even a peri menopausal woman (not me! I keep telling people if I sweat it is because it is hot not that I’m flashing – seriously I talked to another female coworker about how people should stop telling us we are in menopause).

    • Posted June 18, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      In a way, Oz and Chopra is drinking your ‘milkshake’.

      http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2008/jan/14/whatgreatlinesfromthemovi

  9. Glinda The Good
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Anyone else notice that Dr. Woo Manchu seems to have aged pretty badly of late?

    If his recent appearance is any sort of walking testimonial to his “miracle” cures, I’d say that’s reason enough to shy away from them.

  10. Merilee
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Yippee !!!

    I remember a HS classmate who thought that eating Metrical cookies along with her regular meals would help her lose weight…

    • darrelle
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      My patented homemade chocolate chip cookie diet works pretty well. Depending on what your goal is.

      • Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        I prefer that dessert recipe that you posted awhile back – the one with the whipped cream, chocolate chips, fruit, and ricotta cheese. I made it with blackberries. Yum! Low carb, so it must be healthy! :-)

        • darrelle
          Posted June 19, 2014 at 6:19 am | Permalink

          In my personally created reality it is very healthy. Unfortunately my personally created reality does not have a very good track record of corresponding with Reality, so I wouldn’t take my word for it.

  11. Posted June 18, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I can categorically state that Garcinia Cambogia did NOT work for me!

    The best solution is a combination of exercise, portion control, healthy foods like fresh fruits and veggies, and cutting way back on sugar, carbs and fatty meats and dairy products.

  12. Lori
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    I found it disturbing that Oz basically said (paraphrasing) that “people can’t handle the truth, so I lie to them for their own good.” I’m a registered dietitian, and every dietitian knows patients don’t want to hear “eat your vegetables” — it’s a boring message and no fun. But that doesn’t make it OK to endorse what are most likely lies. I bet he probably has the skill and likeability factor needed to deliver a truthful message in a fun and compelling way. But I guess then his show wouldn’t be so popular. Gee, maybe that’s why he does it.

    • Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:46 am | Permalink

      It could be that the formulation of the message is wrong.

      Consider the alternative formulation by Michael Pollan: ” Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
      The key word is “food”. What is “food”?
      Which this engineer explains in 7 rules:

      1. Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. “When you eat something with 15 ingredients you can’t pronounce, ask yourself: What are those things doing there?”.

      2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

      3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop for real foods on the perimeter of the store, near the loading docks, where they can be replaced with fresh foods when they go bad.

      4. Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot. Things like Twinkies that never go bad aren’t food.

      5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. “Always leave the table a little hungry. In Japan, they say eat until you are 4/5 full.” [The phrase is “HARA HACHI BU”].

      6. Families, all through the ages of evolution, ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. Enjoy meals with the people you love. “Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?”

      7. Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.

      • Kevin Alexander
        Posted June 19, 2014 at 2:42 am | Permalink

        My favourite,
        ‘If it comes through the window of your car, it’s not food.’

      • Posted June 19, 2014 at 5:28 am | Permalink

        I would have been more impressed if McCaskill had gone for the throats of fast-food corporations. Just look at photos of Americans in the 1950s – they were (OMG-surprise-surprise) not obese. They are the true culprits who create the dishonest solutions that arise in their wake. Oz is simply an obvious and easy target that leaves the real problem quite in place.

        • Diane G.
          Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

          You’re no looking at the ultimate problem here–consumer choice.

          • Posted June 20, 2014 at 1:24 am | Permalink

            Are poor, uneducated consumers (ie those with the greatest % of obesity) really in a position to make informed choices? Yours is quite a cynical attitude. The fast food industry spends millions of dollars on TV advertising and lobbies to deliberately mislead consumers. Government is supposed to have the interests of the people at heart and while it cannot/should not impose healthy diets on people, it can expose the dangers much more than it does. And perhaps, just once in a while, not place itself on the side of big business…

            • Diane G.
              Posted June 20, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

              “Yours is quite a cynical attitude.”

              And yours is quite a “little people” attitude.

              • Posted June 21, 2014 at 2:28 am | Permalink

                Do you actually mean that the fast-food industry is above criticism? That everything should follow “free market” ideology even if people’s health is negatively impacted? Then in that case, why criticize Oz? (Please note that I am not defending him.)

              • Diane G.
                Posted June 21, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

                No, but I don’t think the answer lies in “going after the throats of the fast food industry.” The answer lies in legislative regulation that makes it feasible for companies to pioneer healthier strategies without committing corporate suicide.

                I do fear the nanny state. And I am unconvinced that anyone in America has missed the eat-healthy message. People are willfully ignorant about this just as they are about so many other things.

  13. Kevin Alexander
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m touting the ‘Rob Ford weight loss regimen’
    Send me ten bucks and I will send you an eight by ten fridge magnet of Rob Ford in a rainbow Speedo.

    • Posted June 18, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Damn you, Kevin Alexander…I will NEVER be able to unsee that!

  14. Sastra
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    The article over on Forbes gave this revealing exchange:

    Dr. Oz: No, I would never publish the paper. It wasn’t done under the appropriate IRB guidance, that wasn’t the purpose of it. The purpose was for me to get a thumbnail sketch, was this worth talking to people about or not. But again I don’t think this should be a referendum on the use of alternative medical therapies ’cause if that’s the case then I’ve been criticized for having folks come on my show and talk about the power of prayer. Now again as a practitioner I can’t prove that prayer helps people survive an illness, I..

    Senator McCaskill: Sure, but it’s hard to buy prayer.

    Dr. Oz: Hard to buy prayer. That’s the difference.

    Sen. McCaskill: Prayer is free.

    Dr. Oz: Yes, prayer is free, that’s a very good point.

    But prayer being free isn’t the point. Not Oz’s point, that is. Notice how quickly and adroitly the Great and Powerful tries to counter criticism of the lack of evidence for alternative medicine therapies by appealing to a similar lack of evidence for religion — which is of course fine and dandy because religion is still known to be true. He’s trying to link having faith in the supernatural to having faith in alt med. There’s enormous social approval given to the first. So why not use the same standards in medicine? Isn’t it inconsistent not to?

    I’ve seen this tactic used many times. Person makes Dubious Claim X. Skeptic counters with the lack of evidence for X. The Dubious Claimant then counters that well, there’s no good evidence for God/prayers/souls/afterlife but it’s right to believe in them anyway, right?

    Change the debate. Make the skeptic sound like an atheist. Make the skeptic admit to being an atheist. Now the poor evidence is reframed into being a bold stance for Belief.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      “Sure, but it’s hard to buy prayer.”

      I’m falling in love with McCaskill.

      • Brygida Berse
        Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:40 am | Permalink

        I am a fan of the senator as well, but I don’t agree on this particular point. Prayer can be bought. The Catholic Church had been selling it for centuries, and TV evangelists followed suit. Dr. Oz is simply a secular TV evangelist.

        • Diane G.
          Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:43 am | Permalink

          Now that you mention it…

      • Chris
        Posted June 19, 2014 at 3:44 am | Permalink

        The Catholic Church made selling prayer a major business for centuries…!

  15. Posted June 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    It’s disappointing that the various medical societies and his university ethics board have not addressed his gross misuse of his professional standing. They should all have more scruples than Congress. Ugh.

  16. Posted June 18, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I continue to find this interesting: No matter what the health “break through” or advice someone is giving out (on TV, in books, in magazines) it always says it will help you lose weight (and of course without having to resort to those horrible expedients, exercise and eating restrictions).

    My wife gets a lot of this stuff and (I’m sure like most people) believes it — because these people sound all “science-y” and everything. When I make criticisms of it (like, you know, actually looking up and reading their citations (if any!) and seeing that they don’t say (at all) what the proponent says they say), then I’m too stuck in the past, blah, blah.

    The latest one was an article about how a particular less invasive surgery had a risk (in a tiny percentage of patients) of spreading cancer. It advocated wholesale shift to open surgery. When I pointed out that they were not reporting the other side of the coin: The increase in complications and deaths by switching to open surgery — this was not taken well.

    Sometimes, I just mumble, “uh-huh” and try to ignore it all. (Even generally skeptical (and highly-educated) people are taken in by this crap.)

    Another was the GM faulty ignition key issue. 13 deaths. Yeah, not nice. But, what’s the denominator? How many millions (or billions) of car trips did those occur over? And maybe they were focused on issues that, you know, had injury rates that were 1000X higher. (I don’t defend GM on this: They appear to have failed in a reporting obligation on this particular issue.) However, having worked within the DOT and dealt directly with such cost-benefit and burden analyses, I can tell you that you can’t understand the problem without that denominator.

    Also, I have had first hand knowledge in a number of significant news stories. The media, every time, got critical parts of the story dead wrong. So my confidence in what’s reported, especially in popular media, and junk shows like Dr. Oz, is … not great.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      I’m so with you on the GM spectacle. But it’s the kind of story journalists love.

  17. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Senate subcommittees are all very well, but I would love to see email providers present Oz with a bill for the costs of filtering spam with his name on it.

  18. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad Dr Oz got this public spanking. I’m so tired of hearing professional people who should know better tout how great Dr. Oz is. Since these people typically accept arguments from authority, I can point to the public spanking he has received.

  19. Posted June 18, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Touting any sort of “miracle” sets off alarm bells with me. Just as those claimed “gurus” waves a red flag of concern in my brain.
    I used to be one of the highly gullible to believe in such claims. But then I was prescribed an antipsychotic and I now see these people as purveyors of pseudoscience rather than science.
    It’s great that someone like Dr Oz is being held to account. I think it is long overdue.

    • Posted June 19, 2014 at 4:23 am | Permalink

      Yes. What’s the one thing you know about any touted “miracle”? That it’s not.

  20. nick
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Dr. OZ is disturbing on so many levels. Yes, Oprah is famous for spawning all sorts of kooks who we are inundated by dayly. Dr. Phil is a jerk and a bully and an idiot in the true nature of that term. Dr. OZ is a true scam artist; subtly hawking junk (product) and hope thinly masked by an artificial doctor persona. The first thing I noticed early on is that he was suggesting ; advocating really; taking substances without consideration of whatever other conditions a patient may have. For example if you have ulcerative colitis you definitely don’t want to drink ginkgo bolo. I often wonder how many people he makes sick from his advice. There seems to be at least one example of this in almost every show. Of course this is ‘alternative medicine’ and you are taking your fate into your own hands and the out is alway ‘ask your doctor before you do this’. There seems to be many products Oz pushes a little too much and I often wonder if he has an interest in those (financially). If he was in the old west he would be a snake oil salesman and I wonder why he didn’t get a walk on in “A Million Ways to Die in the West”. I’m not opposed to alternative medicine. I in fact wish science would take it more serious and do some real research. It could be that some alternative substances combined in specific ways with classical/(synthetic drugs) medicine might be of some benefit. Now, someone can put anything together ; tout it as a ‘miracle cure’ and sell it as it is considered a food or cosmetic and those don’t require the stringent testing that synthetic drugs do. I’ve had my own experiences with alternative medicines. Immune Tea (echinacea); for example; seems to work for me. I have no idea if it bolsters my immune system as it claims but it does seem to work as an expectorate and somewhat of a dehydrating effect on my sinuses. I haven’t noticed any negative side effects. I don’t think however , that drinking tea makes me any healthier than I would be if I didn’t. But just saying something like this might cause someone to run out and buy this stuff whether it’s good for them or not. It’s trial and error and that’s where drug companies and alternative meds make their money. You don’t know if anything is going to work for you until you’ve dropped a lot of bucks. As suggested elsewhere; healing may have more to do with your brain than anything else. The hope of many products is to get the placebo effect to kick start your immune system so that you essentially heal yourself. It works better if you believe. In essence ‘deceiving’ your brain (unlike an anti body which works whether you believe or not). A scam artist says, “ok why not take this a step further”: They are selling deception with deception. People buy it because they are desperate. You could go broke buying all the junk Dr. Oz touts as being beneficial and trying to keep up a regimen of all those products. Who doesn’t have a cabinet full of junk that never did what it said it would ? What Dr. Oz does has to be one of the most insidious crimes against desperate sick people ever perpetrated.

    • Posted June 19, 2014 at 4:26 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I remember him saying something very close to: “Well, yes, we have no hard data saying X does Y. But it can’t hurt! :)

      What a total load of steaming fecal matter! If you don’t have hard data, the only acceptable answer is: I DON’T KNOW! How the hell does he know if it, “can’t hurt” in the absence of hard data?

      He’s just another money-grubbing tool.

      There is only a tiny, thin line separating these “health gurus” from the big-money preachers.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted June 19, 2014 at 4:41 am | Permalink

      I in fact wish science would take it more serious and do some real research.

      They do take it seriously and real research has been done. It’s called alternative medicine because it’s been proven to not work. The alternative to that is medicine that does.

      • Posted June 20, 2014 at 4:45 am | Permalink

        What I always say:

        There’s medicine (proved safe and effective)

        And not-medicine (either not proved to be safe and effective or proved to be NOT safe and effective)

        Placebo effect doesn’t really count as medicine.

  21. Curt Cameron
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Just a small nitpick about the headline: she didn’t send him to the woodshed, she took him to the woodshed, the implication being that she took him there to spank him.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 19, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Maybe she has a dedicated spanker on staff, permanently stationed at the wood shed? Our tax dollars at work? I don’t think I’d have any problems with my tax dollars paying for butt whoopings for the likes of OZ.


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