If Dr. Oz said it, should you do it?
Dr. Mehmet Oz is a cardiovascular surgeon in New York City who has achieved unprecedented popularity as a TV show host and prolific writer. Currently, Dr. Oz is almost ubiquitous—present everywhere, as he is increasingly seen on the covers of women’s magazines in the supermarket checkout aisles. In this blog, I’m sharing some physician perspectives on Dr. Oz and some of his controversial recommendations.
First, I want to point Dr. Oz fans to an in-depth investigative journalism article that appeared in The New Yorker on Feb. 4, 2013, called “The Operator: Is the most trusted doctor in America doing more harm than good?” If you are one of his many avid followers, I want to make clear I have no personal axe to grind with Dr. Oz. I do, however, want to urge readers to sharpen their critical thinking skills about some of the things he enthusiastically recommends that you do.
Second, many mainstream practicing physicians have had increasing heartburn over the last few years about Dr. Oz stating very firmly that there is one right way for your next steps to remain healthy or get healthy. He has recommended a green coffee bean diet as “a miracle.” In 2012, in a TV show about weight loss, he enthusiastically advocated an herbal supplement you could buy with “raspberry ketones” as the main active ingredient. The New Yorker article points out his statements, such as it is “the Number 1 miracle in a bottle to burn your fat,” set off a wave of buying across the United States, causing the product to sell out in less than two weeks. However, the only published research on this supplement was conducted on laboratory rats and on cell cultures—the effects on human beings have not been well-studied or published in top medical journals with unbiased reputations.
However, Dr. Oz did recently launch a campaign called “It’s Not Me” hoping to fight against brands that illegally use his name to endorse their products. “I don’t sell any products,” said Dr. Oz. “If you see my name next to a product being sold to you, they’re lying to you.” Dr. Oz reports that he has teamed up with Google, Facebook and other large “internet vendors” to address this issue.
Hopefully that message will reach the masses. Recently, I had a patient who realized she had purchased an herbal supplement from a link that claimed to be connected to Dr. Oz’s website. It made her break out in a rash all over, and I advised her to stop taking it immediately. She was very surprised to learn supplements like that are not regulated by the FDA, are often made overseas, and we have no idea whether there are toxins or contaminants in these herbal supplements bought online.
Dr. Eric Topol, a leading academic cardiologist at the University of California San Diego, points out “Mehmet … has morphed into a mega-brand. But how are consumers to know what is real and what is magic? … That seems like something other than medicine. It’s more like medutainment.”
In other words, reputable physicians increasingly remind patients that Dr. Oz’s advice should not necessarily be followed to the letter. That said, there are many good articles by Dr. Oz that have been screened by thoughtful editors, such as “Dr. Oz’s Handbook for Healthy Living,” which appeared in the April issue of AARP Magazine.
The take-home message here is that if Dr. Oz recommends it, please talk it over first with your trusted personal physician.
About the Author
Dr. Prentiss Taylor is a Preventive Medicine and Internal Medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group. He is the medical director of the Advocate At Work division that advises many area companies on improving their employee health services using onsite clinicians as well as telephonic health coaches.