Dr. Oz will never let your health get in the way of his ratings.

dr-oz-memeThe popularity of celebrity doctors always baffles me. Whether its Dr. Phil — whose license to practice psychology has been retired since 2006 — or, more recently, Dr. Oz.

In all fairness I have to admit that I’ve only ever watched a few episodes of Dr. Oz and those were mainly because someone else was watching it at the time, but that was enough to call into question any medical advice he has to offer. You see, he’s really big on “alternative” medicines and diet pills and he promotes them heavily on his show. Stuff like raspberry ketone or green coffee extract both of which he has proclaimed as “miracles in a bottle” on his show and both of which haven’t been shown to do jack or shit when it comes to weight loss. However, the lack of scientific evidence beyond a sketchy study or two isn’t enough to prevent Dr. Oz from promoting them heavily.

At it turns out, these outrageous claims by Dr. Oz have been egregious enough to land him in front of a Senate subcommittee that’s looking into the whole green coffee extract nonsense. There he was grilled by Senator Clair McCaskill, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. She did not go easy on him:

“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.”

via Dr. Oz Grilled By Senator Over “Miracle” Weight-Loss Claims – Consumerist.

It’s a fair statement and you’re probably guessing that Dr. Oz ended up feigning ignorance or trying to claim the products really do work. Nope, he admits that — at best — the products he promotes as “miracles” are crutches that can not replace proper diet and exercise:

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.”

In short, he knows better. As he should if his medical degree is legitimate in any sense of the word. McCaskill wasn’t letting him off the hook so easily:

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?”

At this point the good doctor defended his claims on the basis that he believes the products in question do work despite the lack of any reason to do so and then admitted that his claims result in scam artists jumping to sell this crap to everyone dumb enough to listen to him, often using his likeness and statements to endorse it:

“I do personally believe in the items that I talk about on the show,” responded Dr. Oz, who acknowledged that statements he’s made in the past have encouraged scam artists and others looking to make a quick buck on people looking for an easy way to lose weight.

“I do think I’ve made it more difficult for the FTC,” he continued. “In the intent to engage viewers, I use flowery language. I used language that was very passionate that ended up being not very helpful but incendiary and it provided fodder for unscrupulous advertisers.”

Call me old fashioned, but when you’re making medical claims I would think you would want to avoid “flowery” language. However, this raises another point: The intent of Dr. Oz’s show isn’t to give you sound medial advice. It’s to entertain you. He feels he has to engage his viewers by making outrageous claims because apparently the truth won’t get him the ratings that really pulls in the big bucks.

“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,”

In short, he’s selling false hope. He’s willing to promote whatever quackery he can find that offers the smallest of hopes based on the flimsiest of evidence. Sure, that’ll probably make you feel good, but it isn’t doing you any favors. He’s perpetuating nonsense that does nothing but lighten your wallet. The worst part is, he knows it. A lot of the other pseudoscience bullshit peddlers out there at least have the excuse that they’re not really doctors or trained in medicine. Dr. Oz is and he admits that he knows better, but that won’t get him the ratings he needs.