The adjectives catch your attention: “startling,” “breakthrough,” “radical,” “revolutionary”. The miracles come thicker and faster than a tent revival, with new supplements, drinks, and fat-fighting strategies all touted as “miraculous” by the effusive, handsome host. Every show promises that breakthrough that will change your life. How could you resist?
You probably know Doctor Mehmet Oz, one of the most famous constellations in the alternative health care universe. Since his big breakthrough on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he’s become a fixture in houses across the world, trusted to provide simple, effective health tips that might escape the average viewer who doesn’t have the time or money to tap into the latest health information. He “gives people options,” he claims, which in theory sounds like a great idea. And why shouldn’t you trust him? He’s a graduate of not one but two Ivy League schools, teaches at Columbia University’s Department of Surgery, and unlike Oprah’s other protégé, Dr. Phil, still practices in his chosen field (cardiothoracic surgery).
The problem, however, lies in the effect this has on us and our ideas about health. If you want to lose weight and feel healthier, listening to Dr. Oz can create a lot of conflicting feelings. It’s a direct result of something called “the Dr. Oz Effect.”
The authority Dr. Oz has means he can effectively throw his weight behind a product. Raspberry ketone, which is, no doubt, a safe supplement that could help with weight loss, was promoted on the show as “the number one miracle in a bottle to burn fat.”[i] About Garcina cambogia, a tropical fruit that has an acid that might help suppress appetite, he said that it “may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”[ii] Most famously, in 2012 he promoted green coffee bean extract on his show, bringing on board a nutritionist named Dr. Lindsey Duncan and calling it “a miracle in a bottle” (yes, again!).[iii] After the appearance on the show, Duncan and his company sold tens of millions of dollars’ worth of the product.[iv]
This is what’s known as the “Dr. Oz Effect.” The Federal Trade Commission succinctly describes it as “a phenomenon in which discussion of a product on [The Dr. Oz Show] causes an increase in consumer demand.”[v] While he steers clear of formally endorsing or being in commercials for products and companies, his gushing “discussions” of products are often later cited in advertisements with labels like “as seen on The Dr. Oz Show.”[vi] This effect has made a lot of people a lot of money, but it’s also gotten some of them – including Dr. Oz – in a lot of trouble.
Two years after having Dr. Duncan on his show, Duncan’s companies agreed to pay $9 million for consumer redress after “falsely claiming that green coffee bean supplements cause significant and rapid weight loss.”[vii] On The Dr. Oz Show, Duncan claimed that consumers could lose 17 pounds and 16% of their body fat in 12 weeks without diet and exercise by taking the green coffee bean supplements. The “miraculous” results came from manipulated data and improperly-drawn conclusions, making it seem like green coffee bean extract on its own can solve weight problems.[viii]
It was around the time of the $9 million pay-off that Dr. Oz was then asked to testify before the United States Congress about his "get-thin-quick" endorsements that were more akin to “get-rich-quick” schemes. Taking him to task was a bipartisan effort: Republican Senator Dean Heller pressed him on his “miracle” claims, forcing him to pull back, while Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill accused his show of "dramatically boosting sales and driving scam artists to pop up overnight using false and deceptive ads to sell questionable products.”[ix] He has since slightly changed his show's methods and focus, but "the Dr. Oz Effect" still impacts how we see natural health today.
What makes Dr. Oz such a confusing figure is that his information comes without much context. When Dr. Oz calls a product “a miracle in a bottle,” he is, in effect, saying to your viewers that this is the one thing that will cure your ailment – and behind him and this statement are a number of important credentials that people inherently trust. But as every good doctor, nutritionist, dietician, naturopath, etc. should tell you, there’s no one thing. Good health requires attention to your whole body, and in fact, Dr. Oz agrees! While testifying in front of Congress, he said the same thing: “There’s not a pill that’s going to help you lose weight without diet and exercise.”[x] Your body is a complicated system that needs more than a key ingredient to get healthy.
The lack of a simple, unifying plan advocated by Dr. Oz shows him to be more of a salesman than a doctor. Google “Dr. Oz diet” and you get returns for a seven-day “miracle” diet plan, a two-week diet, a 21-day diet, a one-day diet, and a 7-day grapefruit “detox” for weight-loss, among others no less. The sheer amount of information and products regularly plucked out of what seems like the blue can be infuriating, especially if you’re looking for a long-term solution for a healthy life.
So what do we make of this torrent of miracles and diets? Hearing him talk one day of one solution, only to move on the next to something else the next day, leads to a lot of confusion. For starters, it’s important to take anything seen on TV or in the media with a grain of salt. You might trust Dr. Oz, but his show is an hour long, and that includes commercial breaks. Watching his show is not sitting with someone who knows your health history, specific conditions, or potential options, and barring some extraneous circumstances, Dr. Oz will never know.
Before undertaking any of his programs, talk with a professional about your health. They can either put it in a larger context for you – take this with these and make sure you’re getting enough x – or squash it before you spend a lot of time and money taking on a diet or supplement that is at best ineffective, at worst harmful.
The Dr. Oz Effect is a very real thing, and it's had an impact on how we understand health. Alas, there is no “miracle cure” for weight loss. Weight loss and healthy living don’t come from one supplement or dietary trend – it’s about actually changing your life, and equipping yourself with the knowledge that you can use to become a healthier person. There's nothing wrong with taking a safe, effective supplement endorsed by Dr. Oz, but it has to be incorporated into a safe, effective diet.
This is why its important to change how we see our diets. Food isn't simply sustenance - it gives us life! Consumers should focus on food and lifestyle first, do research, and talk to knowledgeable people about nutritional supplements. These simple steps make healthy living a lot easier, and dieting a thing of the past!
Lifewatchers is the opposite of Dr. Oz's past advice. We know that there is no quick solution, but it takes a new way of looking at your food and diet to live a healthy life. We believe in the basic healing power of your food, and the commitment to provide a guide to foods that nourish and strengthen the body while avoiding foods that do harm. The Lifewatchers community is full of great people that offer advice and support you need to succeed. The work you put into your diet and lifestyle could be the change you need!
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