Dr. Oz: Does He Push Quack Treatments and Scam Supplements, Or Is He a Modern Medical Folk Hero?
Dr. Mehmet Oz has been a flashy, charismatic pop doc on TV for years now. He has acquired a loyal fan base of viewers, who follow his every pronouncement. But he also has his detractors, and many are his professional peers. Recently they have become vocal in claiming that Dr. Oz is essentially a purveyor of snake oil and quack weight loss cures. Below, we provide an objective look at the facts.
Who is Dr. Oz?
1960: Mehmet Cengiz Oz, usually known as "Dr. Oz" was born in Cleveland, Ohio on June 11, 1960 to Suna and Mustafa Ozborn, who had emigrated from Konya Province, Turkey.
1982: he received his undergraduate degree at Harvard University.
1985: Oz marries Lisa Lemole.
1986:he received MD and MBA degrees respectively at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Penn's Wharton School.
2001: Dr. Oz became a professor and cardiothoracic surgeon at the Department of Surgery at Columbia University since 2001. He also directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
2004: Oz first appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show
2005: appeared on Larry King Live.
2008: Time magazine ranked Oz at 44th on its list of the "100 Most Influential People"
2009: began The Dr. Oz Show, a daily television program focusing on medical issues and personal health.
2009: co-founds Sharecare, Inc. with Jeffrey T. Arnold providing an interactive question and answer platform that allows industry experts to answer health-related questions.
What do his supporters say?
As near as we can find, his supporters are largely the TV-viewing public. We could locate no credible authorities speaking in defense of Dr. Oz. The two we publish below are the best we could find, and frankly do not look independent, authoritative nor credible:
- "Monsanto mafia attack failing to unseat Doctor Oz, Tuesday", April 21, 2015 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer, Natural News
It proved to be a difficult challenge to find examples of credible advcates of Dr. Oz. We're looking for credible supports (like doctors, professors, university, government and credible non-governmental research organizations, like the NIH,etc.), not simply fan clubs. If you know of any, please send us links to theior web presence.
What do his detractors say?
Dr. Oz has been criticized by physicians, government officials, and publications for providing questionable (non-scientific) advice to the public. This may be due to his vocal support of alternative medicine. Oz described his philosophy to The New Yorker: "I want no more barriers between patient and medicine. I would take us all back a thousand years, when our ancestors lived in small villages and there was always a healer in that village."
In April 2015, a group of 10 physicians from across the country emailed a letter to Columbia University expressing disapproval that Oz is on the faculty. They accuse Oz of "manifesting an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain." They also said Oz has "either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgments about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both." The email sent to Columbia's faculty dean for Health Sciences and Medicine, Dr. Lee Goldman, said the group is "surprised and dismayed" that Oz is on faculty and that he holds a senior administrative position. Oz is vice chair of the Department of Surgery, at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Popular Science magazine and The New Yorker magazine have each published articles critical of Dr. Oz for giving "non-scientific" advice. They raised the question, is he "doing more harm than good".
The James Randi Educational Foundation has awarded Oz with their Pigasus Award, on three separate occasions, more than any other recipient:
- In 2009 for the promotion of energy therapies such as Reiki.
- In 2010 for support of faith healing and psychic communication with the dead, among other controversial practices.
- In 2012 for his continued promotion of "quack medical practices, paranormal belief, and pseudoscience".
Dr. Oz's image and quotes have been used, not with his permission, in many weight loss product scams. To his credit, Dr. has not been found to be involved in these scams and he frequently tells his viewers that he does not sell any such products. However, Dr. Oz's gushing, effusive endorsement of what appears like every latest supplement fad and trend, leaves him wide open to criticism that he is at least indirectly fueling a scam supplement industry.
The British Medical Journal published a study on the effectiveness of Oz's medical advice. It found that more than half (51%) of Dr. Oz's recommendations had no scientific backing and rationale, or in some cases contradicted scientific evidence. Of the 51%, most (36% of the total) had no supporting scientific evidence, while the remaining 15% went directly against established scientific evidence.
According to Vox, a colleague of Dr. Oz's at New York�Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, Dr. Richard Green, the associate chief of cardiac, thoracic, and vascular surger says of Dr. Oz's show and advice: "Why would anyone mistake that for anything but entertainment?""
During a June 2014 Senate hearing on consumer protection, Senator Claire McCaskill said (you can watch a video of it here) that by airing TV segments on weight loss products that are later cited in advertisements, Oz plays a role, intentional or not, in perpetuating these scams. See this page for an example of how scammers use Dr. OZ to promote their scams. Senator McCaskill said she is "concerned that you are melding medical advice, news, and entertainment in a way that harms consumers."
After one of the products Oz was promoting, Green Coffee Bean Extract, was found to have no weight loss benefits, Mary Engle of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) criticized Oz for calling green coffee extract "magic" and a "miracle". Ms. Engle said it is difficult for consumers to listen to their inner voices when products are praised by hosts they trust. You can see the FTC court case findings here.
And some of the supplements and products that Dr. Oz advocates are subject to their own scams, making it difficult for consumers to find the product that Dr. Oz recommends, without being scammed in the process. See this page for an example of this in Manuka Honey..
Unfortunately, Dr. Oz's presentation style of extreme exuberance over products with little science behind them, lends itself to exploitation by scammers.
Dr. Oz critics point out that he has made a luxurious living from the money that follows his hype of quack cures and quick, magic weight loss supplements. Perhaps not directly; but certainly by the cult-like following he has gathered of people who'd rather take a supplement pill than eat less and exercise more.
What are examples of the controversial positions and products Dr. Oz promotes or advocates?
A 2011 investigation reported on the show that apple juice has unsafe levels of arsenic. The FDA disputed the findings and said the report was misleading and irresponsible. Consumer Reports, on the other hand, also agreed with Dr. Oz.
Green Coffee Bean Extract, a product Dr. Oz heavily promoted, was found to have no weight loss benefits. Two of the researchers who were paid to write the study admitted that they could not back their data so they retracted their paper. The FTC filed a complaint that the Texas-based company Applied Food Sciences (the promoters of the study) had falsely advertised. The FTC alleged that the study was "so hopelessly flawed that no reliable conclusions could be drawn from it" so Applied Food Sciences agreed to pay a $3.5 million settlement.
During the Ebola panic last year, Dr. Oz voiced his concern that the virus could go airborne; even though virtually all virologists agreed that Ebola has never behaved that way and was extremely unlikely to.
Dr. Oz has also waded into the GMO labeling controversy. Dr. Oz has come out in support of labeling genetically modified foods, triggering a new wave of criticism, since the research he cited was discredited.
What does Dr. Oz say?
"This month, we celebrate my 1000th show," Oz says in the preview on TV. "I know I've irritated some potential allies in our quest to make America healthy. No matter our disagreements, freedom of speech is the most fundamental right we have as Americans. And these 10 doctors are trying to silence that right." He concludes: "So I vow to you right here and right now: we will not be silenced, we will not give in."
Oz has said that he is a proponent of alternative medicine and has frequently stated that he makes great efforts to inform viewers that he neither sells nor endorses any supplements. He also created the organization "OzWatch" as a way for viewers to report scams.
On his website, Dr. Oz says, "The moment I recommend any solution or product to better your health, I notice my words, name and image get manipulated and used by stores, companies and websites that try to sell their products for a quick buck. I'm mad about this because it dupes you into buying potentially ineffective and unsafe products... I am not and have never been a paid spokesperson for any particular brand, supplement or product. I've even decided to no longer use brand names on The Doctor Oz Show."
The Bottom Line:
Supplements are not regulated, and are often not carefully researched, nor manufactured in facilities that meet the higher standards of approved, regulated medicines. Recent, large studies have even correlated a shorter lifespan with supplement use. Yet, many people are fervent supplement fans and weight loss fad diet junkies, who follow each new trend. "Gingko improves your memory.", "Lose weight with Green Coffee Bean Extract", "Echinachia boosts your immune system", "Cranberry extract protects prostate health", "Acai is the miracle anti Oxidant", "Fats are good for you!", Butter is bad, butter is good, eggs are bad, eggs are good. By now it should be obvious that the supplement and diet bandwagons are riddled with nonsense and should be viewed cautiously, until time, tests, experience and history prove whioch are correct.
We do not see Dr. Oz as a scammer. He is highly educated and intelligent. And it appears that Dr. Oz may be well-intended. Unfortunately, he appears to allow his devotion to many supplement products to promote junk rather than sound methods. He appears to have an inherent bias towards junk science and supplement fads, rather than sound scientific research or provable facts. As Senator McCaskill said to him, why aren't you showing the same passion and enthusiasm toward promoting a bicycle ride at sunset to lose weight, as you are for green coffee bean extracts?
Perhaps the worst that can be said of him is that he believes too much in the magical powers of unregulated supplements like green coffee beans and similar products, and should put greater emphasis upon advocating eating less, eating fresh, less processed foods, exercising more and living a healthier lifestyle. But that wouldn't sell TV time, then, would it?
- April 21, 2015: CNNMoney, "Dr. Mehmet Oz says he "will not be silenced" by a group of 10 prominent doctors who are calling for him to resign from Columbia University."
- April 20, 2015: CNN, "Physicians to Columbia University: 'Dismayed' that Dr. Oz is on faculty" By Debra Goldschmidt, CNN.
- April 20, 2015: Los Angeles Times, "A physicians' attack on Dr. Oz explodes into a new controversy" by Michael Hiltzik
- April 20, 2015: Washington Post, "The Dr. Oz truthers who think he's saving them from Monsanto's GMOs", By Rachel Feltman
- April 2015: The Gaurdian, "Latest Dr Oz accusations have more to do with GMOs than diet"
- April 18, 2015: USA Today, "Dr. Oz defends medical advice amid calls for firing at Columbia U." by Jim Lenahan
- April 16, 2015: New York Daily News, 'A fake and a charlatan': Doctors call for Dr. Oz to be dismissed from Columbia surgery faculty over alleged quack science', By Larry McShane
- January 29, 2015: Science-Based Medicine, "Lies, fraud, conflicts of interest, and bogus science: The real Dr. Oz effect", by Scott Gavura
- December 19, 2014: Washington Post, "Half of Dr. Oz's medical advice is baseless or wrong, study says", By Terrence McCoy
- June 19, 2014: CNN, "Congressional hearing investigates Dr. Oz 'miracle' weight loss claims", By Jen Christensen and Jacque Wilson
- May 19, 2014: FTC, "FTC Charges Green Coffee Bean Sellers with Deceiving Consumers through Fake News Sites and Bogus Weight Loss Claims" and FTC case exhibit evidence. and the FTC court case findings.
- Wikipedia, Mehmet Oz.
The Dr. Oz Show and Dr. Oz official websites and social media pages:
- The DoctorOz Show website
- Dr. Oz's Facebook Page