Dr. Oz: It’s Time to Hand Over the Megaphone

I often describe the dietary supplement industry as the Wild West and it looks like Dr. Mehmet Oz has become its latest outlaw. The celebrity cardiothoracic surgeon and daytime television celebrity of the show, Dr. Oz, took a turn in the hot seat before the Senate’s consumer protection panel Tuesday, defending his endorsement of lose weight quick ingredients and “magic weight loss cure” claims.

It’s about time.

As a naturopathic physician and strategist to the natural and organic products industry, I’ve dedicated my life to the study and practice of natural medicine and to educating others about its benefits and role within our larger health system. As someone who is so invested in this area, I’ve been especially disappointed in the way Oz has abused the platform his show provides for many years.

More than 1/3 of adults in our country are obese, leaving them at risk for deadly conditions like heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Even though research is clear that the most effective way to lose weight is through long-term and consistent diet and lifestyle changes, a weight loss industry consisting largely of lose weight quick products and programs with little to no evidence of efficacy makes an average of $60.9 billion each year.

When paired together these statistics paint a clear picture. We have a crisis on our hands and a society of people who are desperate for tools to improve their health. Right or wrong, our society looks to television, internet and inexpensive and easy-to-access sources of information for guidance.

If there was someone on television with the credentials and endorsements to trust, you would think it would be Oz. A licensed cardiovascular surgeon, professor in the Department of Surgery at Columbia University and go-to health expert for Oprah, he has all the elements to be regarded as a trusted advisor. That’s what makes his misleading and inaccurate claims so stunning.

As Senator McCaskill said to Oz on Tuesday,

I can’t figure this out, Dr. Oz. I get that you do a lot of good on your show. I understand that you give a lot of information that’s great information… you’re very talented and you’re obviously very bright. You’ve been trained in science-based medicine… I don’t get why you need to say this stuff when you know it’s not true. When you have this amazing megaphone, why would you cheapen your show?… With power comes a great deal of responsibility.

I can only hope that Dr. Oz will hand over his megaphone to someone else who has the conviction and ability to use it properly.

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Image by The Gardens Mall

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