On the one hand, it’s heartening to see a tireless champ rooting for natural supplements and complementary medicine. But really, how many true miracles can one man dish out?
From green coffee beans and yacon syrup to L-carnitine, celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz seems to have one fat-burning, metabolism-boosting, longevity-inducing wonder cure after the next. But a new study that set out to fact-check the science behind the magic discovered that much of the advice offered on "The Dr. Oz Show" was unsubstantiated, and some of it was flat-out wrong.
“The research supporting any of these recommendations is frequently absent, contradictory or of poor quality,” said Christina Korownyk from the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta and a co-author of the study published in the British Medical Journal.
The researchers decided to take a closer look after hearing complaints from physicians whose patients gobbled up Oz's advice like gospel.
“Some patients come in and say, ‘I heard on 'Dr. Oz' yesterday that we should all be doing this.’ And then we’re left scrambling in our office to try to find answers,” Korownyk said. “It got us reflecting, what’s being said there? What kinds of things are being recommended and what kind of information is being provided?”
The team looked at both "The Dr. Oz Show" and another health show, "The Doctors," and randomly selected 40 episodes per program. They then selected 80 pieces of medical advice from each show and began fact-checking to ascertain the scientific validity of the recommendations.
And what did they find? Not much science to back up the claims.
“One out of three recommendations from 'The Dr. Oz Show' has believable evidence, and about half of the recommendations on 'The Doctors' has believable evidence,” Mike Allan, and co-author of the study, said in a statement.
Of the health recommendations that the team looked at from "The Dr. Oz Show," 46 percent of it could be substantiated. But the researchers were unable to find supporting evidence for a whopping 39 percent of the recommendations; worse, about 15 percent of the time, the advice directly contradicted best available evidence.
In its defense, a spokesman for the show told Newsweek that the show doesn’t always follow mainstream standards.
“ 'The Dr. Oz Show' has always endeavored to challenge the so-called conventional wisdom, reveal multiple points of view and question the status quo,” said the spokesman. “The observation that some of the topics discussed on the show may differ from popular opinion or various academic analyses affirms that we are furthering a constructive dialog about health and wellness.”
“The public may see these shows as educational,” says Allan. “But in many ways we wonder if that’s really what they’re there for and perhaps they’re just there for entertainment.”
The team concluded that general advice from a TV doctor may not be best route to follow when it comes to making health decisions. Instead, consult with your real-life doctor.
“Our bottom line conclusion is to be skeptical of what you hear on these shows,” says Allan.
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