Senator Burns Dr. Oz Over False Miracle Weight-Loss Claims

Have you taken Dr. Oz's supplement recommendations as the gospel truth or with a grain of salt?
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June 19, 2014
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nutrition, health, supplements, wellness, Dr. Oz, government, weight loss

"You can’t spread it on kielbasa and expect it to work."

Dr. Oz was talking about weight-loss supplements he's recommended, like green coffee bean extract, when he said that to a panel of U.S. senators on Tuesday. But that's not the kind of Dr. Oz quote supplement advertisers are using, which is why the panel was assembled: to discuss misleading weight-loss ads.

Dr. Oz has become the literal poster boy for unproven, unregulated weight-loss supplements, with companies--and, in many cases, scammers--using his image in their ads, albeit without his consent. Senator Claire McCaskill, Chair of Consumer Protection, is not having it, and believes Oz needs to take responsibility for his role, intentional or not, in these scams, citing specific examples of recommendations he's made on his show:

• "You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they've found the magic weight loss cure for every body type. It's green coffee extract."

• "I've got the number-one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat. It's raspberry ketone."

• "Garcinia cambogia: It may be the simple solution you've been looking for to bust your body fat for good."

Dr. Oz directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, is a professor at the Department of Surgery at Columbia University, and, most important, is one of Oprah's favorite things. Needless to say, people trust him.

Senator McCaskill, however, doesn't believe the hype.

"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," McCaskill said during the hearing. And then, she burns him pretty good:

"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?"

McCaskill, who has publicly discussed her own weight loss due to diet and exercise, especially takes exception to Oz calling a product a "miracle in a bottle."

"I’m not going to argue that [green coffee extract] would pass FDA muster if it was a pharmaceutical drug seeking approval, but among the natural products that are out there, there is a product that has several clinical trials," Oz said, explaining that it's not necessarily about scientific proof. "I've been criticized for having folks come on my show talking about the power of prayer. As a practitioner, I can’t prove that prayer helps people survive an illness."

"You don’t have to buy prayer," the senator responded. "Prayer is free." Point, McCaskill!

"I actually do personally believe in the items I talk about in the show," Oz said. "I passionately study them. I recognize that often times they don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact. [Emphasis, ours.] But, nevertheless, I give my audience the advice I give my family all the time. I give my family these products, specifically the ones you mentioned. I’m comfortable with that part."

That doesn't mean he's cool with scammers using his likeness. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission sued one of the green coffee companies for swindling consumers with those ridiculous fake news sites, on which they included video from The Dr. Oz Show.

"I use language that is very passionate," Oz admits, "and it provided fodder for the unscrupulous advertisers.”

"To not have the conversation about supplements at all, however, would be a disservice to the viewer," Oz read from a prepared statement after the hearing. "In addition to exercising an abundance of caution in discussing promising research and products in the future, I look forward to working with all those present today in finding a way to deal with the problems of weight-loss scams."

Dr. Oz says he'll tone down his language and publish a list of products he sincerely thinks can help people lose weight.

Do you think he's partly to blame for some of the weight-loss ad scams? Have you ever used one of his supplement recommendations?