Dr. Mehmet Oz, is a truly polarizing personality. There are those that swear by his recommendations, there are those that want him booted off TV. Then there are those that search Google, asking 'Is Dr Oz a real medical doctor'?
First off, we can confirm that he is a qualified doctor. After his undergraduate degree at Harvard University, he got a joint MD and MBA from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Wharton Business School. So, that's cleared up.
So why should do people doubt his credentials?
In 2014, he was summoned to face a Senate subcommittee, it turns out that it's not just the public that is worried about him.
At this time, The Dr. Oz Show had been on the air for five years, so the doctor was summoned to enlighten them about the weight loss supplements he had been recommending. The doctor couldn't and spent most of the afternoon backtracking on many of the claims he made on the show, over the last five years.
In December 2014, the British Medical Journal examined the health care advice given on his TV show. Their conclusion was that 54% of all the recommendations had either no evidence to support them or were actually contradicted by available evidence.
How is a medical practitioner who took the oath "First do no harm" dispensing medical advice that is 'proven to be correct' only about half of the time? Is that even legal?
The size of the supplement industry, where 95% of his health recommendations come from, is worth roughly $36.7 billion. That can be a lot of reasons to close your eyes to the evidence. The good doctor has even admitted that he 'puts on a show' to make the segments interesting. Not the words you want to hear from someone you are entrusting your life to.
In 2015, a committee of ten physicians lobbied Columbia University to sever ties with him (where he holds a faculty position). They claim he dispenses questionable medical advice on TV and had shown 'an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.' The damning claims continue as they say he has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine.
Now now, this seems pretty harsh, right? You may even jump to the conclusion that these may be his contemporaries who are jealous of his success.
But in the following instances, he was caught dispensing not-so-great advice to his daily audience of more than 4 million people across 118 countries.
11 Amalgam Fillings
In a 2013 taping of The Dr. Oz Show, there was a panel of experts who claimed that amalgam fillings were poisonous. They claimed that with every movement of your mouth, mercury vapor is released from your fillings. Eating, chewing, grinding, any movement of your teeth could all be poisoning you.
To prove their point, they brought a model of the human mouth with amalgam fillings in the teeth, and proceeded to brush the 'teeth' vigorously. They measured some mercury gas coming off the fillings as proof of their claim.
Soon after the episode aired, dentists were quick to point out the flaws in this 'diagnosis'. First, the test didn't accurately replicate the way people brush or the real conditions of a human mouth. Dr. Oz was also accused of using the wrong language as he was interchanging the terms 'amalgam filling' and 'silver filling'. They are two different compounds with different uses and shouldn't be interchanged. Amidst all this 'misdirection', it emerged that the invited experts also had books to sell.
10 Garcinia Cambogia, the ultimate 'fat burner'
The good doctor is an ardent promoter of anything that has to do with weight loss. Whether it's an Indonesian plant extract or funky colored coffee beans or homeopathy, Dr. Oz would plug it.
Garcinia Cambogia was one of the many products; he called a 'revolutionary' weight-loss supplement. He claimed this was a 'miracle in a bottle that could burn your fat.'
But fat can't be burned off from one part of the body; anyone who has spent hours slogging away in the gym knows that. But then, those are not the people watching The Dr. Oz Show. One episode in 2012 used this bold tagline "No Exercise. No Diet. No Effort."
In a 2013 meta-analysis of Garcinia Cambogia, its weight loss benefits were deemed inconclusive and would need long-term clinical trials to be proven. This makes his endorsement quite chilling as he's basically recommending an untested product.
9 Arsenic In Apples
In September 2011, Dr. Oz took it upon himself to investigate which of the nation's top brands of apple juice contained arsenic. His testing involved 50 different brands of apple juice, and his results showed that they all 'contained a high element of arsenic.' He promptly shared these results live on air, leading to a public outcry.
In the backlash that followed, he was slammed by the juice companies for causing parents to worry needlessly. Even the FDA weighed in saying that 'the majority of arsenic in apple juice is organic or the “harmless” kind'.
8 Using Scare Tactics to Boost Ratings
In a 2011 edition of Time magazine, the doctor recounted his harrowing ‘brush with death’, but it turns out he was only being overly dramatic. He had a colonoscopy done on the show and the results showed that he had a pre-cancerous polyp.
Doctors say it was nothing to worry about as it occurs in one in every four men. It can be taken care of with a quick snip and a laser suture. But in the story, Dr. Oz made it sound like he had been given only a few months to live.
The nation’s top colorectal specialists called him out on this alarmist attitude, reminding him that the tiny adenoma is fairly common. It becomes dangerous only if left untreated and could lead to cancer in 10-15 years.
These doctors said that, by blowing it out of proportion, he was putting off people who were already scared about getting checked in the first place.
7 Ethical Disclosures
In his Capitol Hill hearing, Dr. Oz defended himself by saying he never sold the supplements personally. He said he only finds products that 'work' and introduces them to his viewers.
But in a series of leaked emails between Dr. Oz, his staff, and executives at Sony (one of his show's producers), it turns out he was planning to profit from his recommendations. The email, from his team, explained that he could use the show to introduce Sony's about-to-be-launched fitness devices. He didn't seem concerned about any health considerations, just more excited about doing business with Sony.
It sounds like the good doctor was fishing for endorsement fees, to help push the product. It also emerged that he had earned over $1.5 million from recommending one hemorrhoid product. While he disclosed that he helped develop the product, the ethics of the situation is still up in the air.
Did his one line disclaimer of 'helping to develop the therapy' adequately inform his audience that he'd profit if they took his advice and bought it?
6 Teeth Whitening
In another dental 'diagnosis', Dr. Oz wrote a 'detailed' blogpost about natural remedies to whiten teeth. The post suggested we stuff ourselves with raisins, as they'll stimulate the flow of saliva (true) and also rinse away plaque (not true). Plaque is the hardened crud that only a dentist can scrape off while you are blissfully passed out; and he says it can be magically washed away by raisin spit.
The post also recommended that you try the Dr. Oz Teeth Whitening Home Remedy i.e. baking soda and lemon juice. This 'treatment' is nothing new and has been an urban legend for ages.
Dentists chimed in and pointed out just how acidic lemon juice is (measuring around 2 on a pH scale), and how abrasive baking soda powder is and how it can strip away the enamel. In his defense, he recommends only leaving it on for a minute, but people will try this 'treatment' over and over. The cumulative effect of all these ingredients in your mouth can lead to weak, sensitive teeth.
5 GMO foods are GOOD for You
On World Health Day, Dr. Oz chimed in on the hot topic of the day which was the recent classification of the herbicide glyphosate as a possible carcinogen. Glyphosphate was a herbicide and weed killer, sold by the Monsanto Company. The plans to phase it out are steps in the right direction, but Dr. Oz's stance on this is questionable. In this situation, he stood against Monsanto and sided with the rest of us.
To put this into perspective, in a 2012 Time article, the good doctor claimed all GMO foods are the same as non-GMO organic variants. He went to label all those buying organic, 'snooty elitists.'
This attack was surprising as only a few days before, one of the largest health care groups in the US, the Kaiser Permanente company, declared that everyone should “...avoid GMOs to avoid serious health consequences...”
And yet, Dr. Oz claimed GMO foods are better than non-GMO? The general consensus was that they had made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
4 'Exotic' Home Remedy for Colds
The doctor extended his 'expertise' into America's nasal cavity when he offered the best remedy for the common cold. Pitching Umckaloabo Root Extract in the January 2013 issue of O, The Oprah magazine, he claimed it was used by the Germans as a 'cure for respiratory woes'.
He went on to say it would take three weeks for the symptoms to clear. Who wants to wait 21 days with a stuffed nose, runny eyes and a blocked head?
A Cochrane review found that, at best, there is only a tentative benefit for its use to cure symptoms of the common cold. In addition to this, there have been reports of the extract having adverse effects on users. In one case, the extract was implicated as the cause of liver damage and other doctors advise against its use in patients with liver diseases.
Yet Dr. Oz recommended the product with NO warnings.
3 RLS Begone!
You know that creeping, itching, tingling sensation you sometimes feel in your lower legs, at night? The one that has you twitching and moving your leg, just to make it stop? It's called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS); and the good doc has you a cure for that too.
In a case of purely anecdotal science, Dr. Oz claims that using lavender soap can help you manage RLS. He hypothesizes that the slightly musky smell of lavender is relaxing and "may be beneficial for the condition." While there are no peer-reviewed studies to back this up, the good doctor still suggested it to viewers.
2 'Reparative Therapy'
In his bid to offer every possible form of help that he can, Dr. Oz invites different 'experts' on his show. In a 2012 episode, he had a representative of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) on the show. They are the organization that feels that homosexuality is a mental disease and they're inventing ways to cure this 'disease.'
Despite the fact that attempting to change a patient’s sexual orientation using therapy has been proven ineffective and dangerous, Dr. Oz still had them on his show.
In the ensuing backlash from GLAAD and GLESN, he defended himself by saying 'he only wanted to include ALL parties involved in the discussion.' He ended the post by agreeing that the data does not support any positive results.
1 Metabolism Boosters
These 'magic' compounds are supposed to speed up metabolism so fast that you can eat as much as possible without gaining any weight. We've heard the horror stories of synthetic substances like DMAA and its horrible 'cooking from the inside' effect.
But the good doctor didn't recommend any chemical cocktail. He simply pitched the 'all-natural' raspberry ketone supplement.
While certain foods can temporarily speed up your metabolism, the change is so small that you won't see any effect. This hasn't stopped Dr. Oz from pitching everything known to increase this effect, from chilli to chocolate as as potential "mega metabolism boosters."
These claims have no scientific backing; it has been proven that to burn fat, you have to include some physical activities. Ironically, when cornered during the Senate hearing, this was the exact advice he gave.
He insisted that he believes in the supplements he talks about on his show should be used as short-term crutches. He concluded by saying there's no long-term miracle pill and weight loss is a combination of diet and exercise.
And that is not the advice he gives on the show.