Want some solid health advice? It is best to take what you hear on the Dr. Oz with a healthy grain of salt. Not too much salt, you have to watch sodium levels and all. A study in this week’s BMJ looked at all the medical advice dispensed by the show, and found a shocking amount backed by little or no scientific research.

It gets worse. 11% of the advice on Dr. Oz, either him or his guests, contradicted medical facts. Researchers gave the show its very own warning label in the study.

“Consumers should be skeptical about any recommendations provided on television medical talk shows. Viewers need to realize that the recommendations may not be supported by higher evidence or presented with enough balanced information to adequately inform decision-making.”

One-third of the recommendations made by the show were backed by science. Not exactly the hit ratio you want from a cardiac surgeon with two Ivy League degrees. If he was doing the weather, sure. Your health? Well, you shouldn’t be taking medical advice from a show pushing a whole host of dietary supplements. Is green coffee bean extract magical? Only at emptying your wallet.

This isn’t the first time Dr. Mehmet Oz has been under a microscope. In June, a Senate subcommittee took him to task for telling viewers: “I’ve got the No. 1 miracle in a bottle to burn your fat. It’s raspberry ketones.” Yep, weight loss and raspberry ketones. If it sounds absurd, it is.

Senator Claire McCaskill joined her colleagues in expressing incredulity at the show and its host. “I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true.”

Dr. Oz and The Doctors

This study took a more broad approach, in fairness to Dr. Oz and another medical show, The Doctors. They randomly screened 40 episodes that aired during the first half of 2013. Researchers had plenty of recommendations to check. Dr. Oz put out 12 an episode, and The Doctors offered up 11. That’s a lot of coffee beans.

Two researchers were assigned each recommendation and tasked with independent searches to find ‘believable’ evidence. The team cast a wide net for support, hanging on to any decent scientific research.

Only 21% of the recommendations on Dr. Oz had the support of ‘believable’ evidence. Another 11% were backed by ‘somewhat believable’ evidence. The Doctors had a better rate, hitting 32.5% and 20%, respectively.

Out of recommendations on both the shows, the benefit of the intervention was mentioned 40% of the time. That sounds great, until you ask if the size and side effects were discussed. That number craters to 20% of the size of the benefit, and less than 10% for any potential side effects.

As for the money being made off the products? Well, don’t hold your breath. Conflicts of interest were discussed less than 1% of the surveyed episodes.

What have we learned? The researchers ponder it best, wondering “whether we should expect medical talk shows to provide more than entertainment.”

Yeah, entertainment that 2.9 million viewers consider medical advice everyday. Sounds like the shows could stand a warning label.


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