Nutrition Detectives

Uncovering Health and Nutrition Issues for the Real World.

Dr. Oz’s Weight Loss Miracle

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Okay, this title might be a little misleading – there isn’t only one “weight loss miracle” being touted by Dr. Oz.  It seems every week he is promoting a new supplement or “super food” that will melt the pounds away. But this week I want to focus on just one – green coffee bean extract.

coffee beans

This week, three separate clients asked me if they should begin taking green coffee bean extract because they heard Dr. Oz was recommending it for weight loss. My short answer? No. The long answer? No, because there is very little evidence, if any, supporting green coffee bean extract’s effects on weight loss. Lack of evidence means I will not be recommending it to clients.

Now if you’re like my clients or you’ve seen this particular show, you might be thinking “but Dr. Oz quoted a study on his show that proved it worked”, and you’re right, he did. The 2012 study indicated that people taking green coffee bean extract lost more weight than people who didn’t take it. Sounds good but the study was incredibly flawed. There were a lot of problems with this study, one of which was that it was a very small, unrepresentative sample size (only 16 participants). Also, participant selection was not discussed and conflict of interest was not listed (the study was funded by a pharmaceutical company). (For a more detail explanation of why this study was flawed, check out Science Based Medicines post). All of these problems with the study design mean that it cannot be used to prove that green coffee bean extract has any effect on weight loss.

Dr. Oz tried to take things a step further by conducting his own “study” with members of his audience. I think you’d have a hard time finding any scientist that would support this “method” of scientific research. It has many of the same flaws of the study above among others.

oz and green bean coffee

If there is no evidence to support taking a supplement, we, as health professionals, shouldn’t be recommending it. And you, as health consumers, should be wary of these “too good to be true” recommendations.

Dr. Arya Sharma, a well-respected obesity researcher and chair of medicine at the University of Alberta, was quoted in the Globe and Mail (view the whole article here) as saying “clearly there’s nothing magical about it”. And I agree.

Of course, Dr. Oz isn’t the first person to promote supplements and pills with very little, or no, scientific backing. But what makes Dr. Oz’s recommendations different is the combination of his influence and list of impressive credentials, which makes many people trust everything he says. A recent article in the New Yorker (read it here) describes many of his achievements, which are quite impressive: Dr. Oz graduated from Harvard and earned a joint M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania; he is a surgeon specializing in heart transplants and still serves as the vice-chairman and professor in the department of surgery, which he has done for the last 20 years. He even continues to perform surgery there every Thursday. On top of the many studies he has published, he also developed Columbia’s Cardiovascular Institute and Integrative Medicine Program. Regardless of what you think of Dr. Oz, this list is impressive. It’s also what makes him so dangerous.

-Sarah

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