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Dr. Oz and The Doctors: Assessing Exaggerated Health Claims

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Thursday, December 25, 2014

Dr. Oz

It is an unfortunate fact that for many Americans and Canadians, a sizable amount of our health news and advice comes from popular TV programs. Both The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors regularly make it into the top 5 highest rated talk shows in America. Dr. Oz averages 2.9 million viewers per episode, while The Doctors boast 2.3 million daily viewers.The quality and veracity of the information given on these programs has come into question recently, specifically highlighted by Dr. Oz’s appearance and accountability before the US Congress. (see video below)

In a study for The British Medical Journal, 14 medical professors and researchers randomly chose 40 2013 episodes from The Dr. Oz Show and 40 2013 episodes from the CBS program The Doctors. They assessed the advice and recommendations made during the shows and set out to find the scientific evidence for each claim. Eighty recommendations were arbitrarily chosen from each show. The results:

---- A typical episode of The Dr. Oz Show contained 12 recommendations, The Doctors – 11.

---- 54% of the total 160 recommendations were based on solid evidence.

---- The Dr. Oz Show had solid evidence for 46%, contradictory evidence for 15%, and no evidence found for 39% of recommendations.

---- The Doctors had solid evidence for 63%, contradictory evidence for 14%, and no evidence found for 24% of recommendations.

The official conclusions of the researchers:

1)  “Recommendations made on medical talk shows often lack adequate information on specific benefits or the magnitude of the effects of these benefits. Approximately half of the recommendations have either no evidence or are contradicted by the best available evidence. Potential conflicts of interest are rarely addressed. The public should be skeptical about recommendations made on medical talk shows.”

2)  “If the shows are perceived as providing medical information or advice, viewers need to realize that the recommendations may not be supported by higher evidence or presented with enough balanced information to adequately inform decision making. Decisions around healthcare issues are often challenging and require much more than non-specific recommendations based on little or no evidence from media health professionals. Patients would do well to ask healthcare providers specific questions about the benefits and harms, along with the magnitude of the effect (in absolute numbers), and the costs and inconveniences of any recommendation.”

Dr. Oz accused of peddling bogus weight-loss drugs

“Televised medical talk shows—what they recommend and the evidence to support their recommendations: a prospective observational study”  
The British Medical Journal, 17 December 2014   http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/349/bmj.g7346.full.pdf

“Reality check: there is no such thing as a miracle food”    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23441603

Adam S. Cifu, “Why Dr. Oz Makes Us Crazy”  Journal of General Internal Medicine  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3912308/

Michael Specter, “The Operator: Is the most trusted doctor in America doing more harm than good?”      http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/02/04/the-operator

Photo: “The Doctors” CBS (CC)   

Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.


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