Many of you are undoubtedly familiar with “America’s Doctor” – Dr. Mehmet Oz. His television show “The Dr. Oz Show” garners about 3.7 million viewers a day. It’s not a surprise then that the information he offers has an impact. A positive impact is his endorsement of the Neti Pot – a mini teapot-like product you use to decrease nasal congestion during a common cold. A less positive impact is his pandering of specific and unproven nutritional supplements or treatments causing his viewers to “try it because Dr. Oz said so”, according to one of my patients.
Dr. Oz’s goal, according to his TV show staff is to provide “as much information as possible on health issues”. This, to me, seems like a noble and worthy goal to achieve. However, upon further thought and discussions with my co-nutrition detective, it has me thinking that while the public’s thirst for knowledge is pushing the demand for information, does it not do the public a disservice? We are bombarded daily with reams of information, which begs the question: are the non-healthcare-professional public equipped to disseminate this information to make the best decisions for their own individual health? I suspect not. It’s way too confusing out there, even with a science education and health training background.
Take this as an example: Dr. Oz’s website has recently touted two “diabetes prevention powerhouses” – coffee and vinegar. Say what? There have been some promising studies in the last 10 years that have found a relationship between coffee consumption and insulin resistance but it’s exactly that – an association and not a cause and effect. Big difference.
The number of patients who ask me about Dr. Oz’s advice or simply tell what they’re doing (supplements, etc.) based on his advice is staggering. One patient revealed to me that he adds drops of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water to drink faithfully every morning, just in case it works for something that he’s not sure of. Thanks, Dr. Oz.
It seems also that these days Dr. Oz is running out of evidence-based material to talk about on his show. In fact, it seems that the shows are becoming more sensationalist while offering many questionable practitioners airtime on his show. Case in point: Cameron Alborzian, a yogi, discussed tongue diagnosis and John Edward, a psychic, discussed talking to the dead as potential therapy. Hmmm…
This brings me to my next point: offering “as much information as possible” in this manner isn’t critical enough or measured – not all of these health perspectives are balanced or backed by solid evidence. But when the information is presented with confidence and certainty, it is difficult to see the uncertainty in newly published studies and anecdotal, popular reports.
So where do we go from here? We come back to recognizing sensational marketing of TV shows and its segments for what they are – marketing tools to have us watch. Science is based on data and this should be discussed rather than health issues based on popularity or dodgy pseudoscience.
Stay tuned for next week’s post when we delve deeper into some of Dr. Oz’s recommendations.