I would like to publically thank Senator Clare McCaskill for calling on the carpet Dr. Mehmet Oz for the misinformation he has distributed via his television show to millions of unsuspecting viewers during recent Capitol Hill hearings. I appreciate his claim that he was trying to educate his viewers by using hyperbolic language to make a point on his various subjects. But, I also want to point out that Dr. Oz is not alone in choosing decorative language to illustrate a point that a consumer might misconstrue. As a Registered Dietitian I hear other members of the health and medical field, who I might add, have not had the specific training in the field of nutrition as I and my fellow Registered Dietitians have, use all manner of words to describe what life will be like if you only follow what particular diet plan or program is being sold. Terms such as “Miracle” or “Melts away” or “Falls off” may refer to many things but weight loss is not one of them. Losing weight is hard. It is a complicated process that requires attention from many different areas of life externally, meaning discovering family relationships, confidence and self-worth, or internally, with regard to hormone and genetic reaction to the foods we consume. We do the general public no favors by reducing something so involved into buzz words to sell products. Dr. Oz and others like him should know better and I, for one, who was so proud of the way he was able to get the public to understand plaque in the arteries, am now sad by his corruption of education to the public.
The real culprits are Big Food, Big Pharma and Big Agriculture who lobby Congress to keep laws of “truth in advertising” from allowing the public to know exactly what is in the products they sell. Also, there is a shady area in the world of vitamins and supplements where some of these “diet products” fall. They are not quite considered food and not quite a drug either so the regulation is shaky. This is what happened to the “Green Coffee Bean Extract” saga as discussed in the Senate hearings Senator McCaskill was holding. Is it a food or a drug? Where is the research to prove efficacy? It turns out that Dr. Oz was using himself as the human subject and then reporting the results on his show. Is that legal? When anyone wants to do medical research that is subject to scrutiny it must be reviewed by an IRB, International Review Board, before it can be considered reportable research. Clearly, Dr. Oz did not do this. Was it illegal? I am not sure but it was certainly unethical and that is why he was shamed by the senator in this committee.
This incident is one of those occasions when the right thing happens by accident. If Dr. Oz had not attended these hearings nothing would have changed and all the frustrations from patients I hear about, listening to his show or other sources, would continue under the radar. I and my fellow colleagues will continue quietly to counsel patients on sensible eating and exercise and try to explain that weight reduction in a slow healthy manner is the best way to keep it off. What really needs to happen is for the public to insist on laws that protect them from manufacturers selling “snake oil” or processed food.