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Dr. Oz under attack as quack: Weight loss supplement miracles questioned

Dr. Oz is under attack.
Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Dr. Mehmet Oz's talk show has won the Daytime Emmy Award on three occasions. But now, in the midst of its fifth successful season, the charismatic physician is being attacked by a medical student, reported Vox on July 12.

"Organized medicine in New York is aware of what Dr. Oz is saying and how he is able to fall through the gaps of regulation. Many New York physicians testified at their annual meeting about the harm they are seeing happen day-to-day with their own patients," said Benjamin Mazer, a third-year medical student at the University of Rochester.

As a result, Mazer hopes to bring attention to what he feels is pseudo-science by changing the policy for the Medical Society of the State of New York, where Dr. Oz is licensed, and the American Medical Association (AMA). He is concerned that physicians often say when their advice goes against Dr. Oz's supplement suggestions, their patients opt for what Dr. Oz says on TV.

"This issue was brought up by a number of physicians I worked with during my family medicine clerkship," explained Mazer. "We had all of this first-hand experience with patients who really liked his show and trusted him quite a bit."

However, on occasion Dr. Oz's advice was of dubious merit or "it had no medical basis. It might sound harmless when you talk about things like herbal pills or supplements. But when the physicians' advice conflicted with Oz, the patients would believe Oz," revealed Mazer.

However, the medical student admitted that he's still struggling to convince the AMA that it's time to change the national policies. Instead, "they reaffirmed existing policy instead of our resolution asking them to take action against inappropriate medical testimonials on TV. The AMA basically thought they were doing enough with existing policy."

But Mazer has some influential politicians on his side. Recently, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill earned her own media attention by grilling Dr. Oz about the way he repeatedly shines his TV spotlight on what he terms "weight loss supplement miracles," reported the Kansas City Star on July 12.

"It’s bad when a doctor says there’s a miracle pill that will let you lose weight and keep eating anything you want," said McCaskill when asked why she had put Dr. Oz on trial. But while not defending Dr. Oz, some say that she used the opportunity to publicize her own political platform.

"The positions she’s taking are things that probably are less likely to totally alienate her from a whole lot of folks,” said Bob Priddy, news director of Missourinet, a statewide commercial radio network. “She goes after waste, fraud and abuse."

And in the case of Dr. Oz, McCaskill feels that the "miracles" he promises are fraudulent. In addition, she argues that he's abusing the prestige he has earned as a physician to attract viewers with overblown descriptions.

For an example, consider Dr. Oz's July 14 episode. Titled "Defy Your Age," the show included what he described as a miraculous new machine that can melt your fat. The product featured is called the Vanquish.

Dr. Oz frequently invites experts to talk about the "miracles" he's touting, and on this show, it was Dr. Howard Sobel. The machine, according to this physician, heats fat cells and then "melts" them. He described it as ideal for those with belly fat.

If the description of a fat-melting miracle on Dr. Oz's show sounds familiar, there's a reason. If you search Google with the term "Dr. Oz fat-melting," you'll receive 59,800 results. And those aren't results from tabloids: They primarily come from his own talk show Web site.

In recent years, Dr. Oz has featured shows and segments with titles such as "Melt Your Fat Fast" and "Miracle Fat-Melting Trial." He's highlighted fat-melting teas, fat-melting supplements, fat-melting products and even fat-melting chili.

Not even highlighted at the Senate hearing: Dr. Oz sometimes recommends products that only one or two companies make. As a result, it's resulted for a big bucks bonanza for companies who make the products highlighted, even though he claims not to recommend any specific products.

Will the recent attacks by a medical student and a politician persuade Dr. Oz to dial down his promises? He told the Senate committee that he would try to do better - but it remains to be seen if that comment will fade from his memory faster than the results from a fat-melting machine.