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Dr. Oz's talk show: From weight loss supplement scams to statins controversy

Get the latest news on Dr. Oz's talk show.
Photo by Ben Gabbe

"The magic weight-loss cure for every body type" and "the No. 1 miracle in a bottle to burn your fat" sound like descriptions you would hear on an infommercial. But in reality, they are statements made by Dr. Mehmet Oz on his popular talk show. Now he's under fire for his repeated touting of weight loss supplements, reported People magazine on Friday.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, grilled Dr. Oz for offering "false hope" in hyping products such as green coffee bean extract. She contended that he doesn't believe in the products and features them only to attract viewers to his talk show.

"I don't get why you need to say this stuff when you know it's not true," declared McCaskill. "When you have this amazing megaphone, why would you cheapen your show?"

In attempting to defend himself, Dr. Oz used the megaphone analogy and portrayed himself as a cheerleader, reported the Los Angeles Times on Friday. "My job is to be a cheerleader for the audience," he insisted. "When they don’t think they have hope, I want to look everywhere … for any evidence that might be supportive to them."

Among that supposed "evidence" are supplements that he describes as "miracles" and "magic" multiple times each season. As a result, raspberry ketones sold out in health food stores across the nation and even in Canada after Dr. Oz described it as "the Number One miracle in a bottle to burn your fat."

And the problem, pointed out McCaskill, although he does not endorse specific products, marketers can use his language and make enormous profits. Products are even sold using his name, such as "Raspberry Ketones Dr Oz Recommended Fat Burner."

But Dr. Oz's defenders say that his ability to offer science-based information to the public on important topics such as heart attacks outweighs his flowery language. Indicative of his true interests: His books and new magazine.

For example, the latest edition of his weight loss book "YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management" devotes its 547 pages to practical diet details such as including protein at every meal. As for supplements, he includes only accepted options such as vitamin D for bone health and ribose for conditions such as fibromyalgia.

As for his new magazine, "Dr. Oz the Good Life," supplement recommendations are confined to vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium. The cover stories offer basics such as "Vitamins: Which Ones You Need" rather than any mention of miracles or magic.

But will Dr. Oz's main platform, his talk show, change in light of the Senate brouhaha? A preview of his shows this coming week indicates subjects carefully chosen to avoid any supplement mentions.

For example, a show entitled "Controversial New Statin Guidelines" is scheduled for Wednesday. On it, Dr. Oz will analyze the new rules and discuss why he feels consumers should be concerned about them.

The choice of this topic illustrates what Dr. Oz has to contribute in his talk show. As a heart surgeon, he has the knowledge to understand the implications of cholesterol-lowering drugs - and in his role as "America's doctor," as Oprah Winfrey dubbed him, he has the ability to explain those implications to the general public.

Complementing his talk show is Dr. Oz's blog. He has used that adjacent platform to talk about more medical matters.

For example, on the topic of the new statin guidelines, Dr. Oz expressed his concern that "people who would otherwise be able to manage their cardiovascular risk through nonpharmaceutical means will be pressured to take a medication which may not benefit them and could have harmful side effects." It's ironic that a similar statement could be made about the publicity he's given to weight loss supplements.

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