the great and powerful oz

dr oz


Dr. Mehmet Oz, charming star of the daytime TV show bearing his name, appeared before a U.S. Senate committee on consumer protection last week.

Why was the beloved doctor hauled out to Capitol Hill for a grilling?

Well, in short, it’s because he has been a very bad boy.

You see, Dr. McHeartthrob has taken to using terms like “miracle in a bottle”, “magic weight loss cure” and “lightning in a bottle” to describe various tonics, elixirs, pills and potions featured on his popular show.

“Thanks to brand new scientific research, I can tell you about a revolutionary fat buster,” Oz said on his show in November 2012 with the words “No Exercise. No Diet. No Effort” on the screen behind him. “It’s called Garcinia cambogia.”

Source: CNN

Oh the horror.

And what about this Oz-described miracle supplement, green coffee bean extract, which he touted the virtues of in May 2012?

“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.” 

Magic bean? What’s next, a sky-high beanstalk, a goose that lays golden eggs and a Fe-Fi-Fo spouting giant?

All jesting aside, the frightening truth is that a scientific study on obese lab mice showed that not only did the green coffee bean extract not help them to shed weight, but it actually gave them early symptoms of diabetes.


So now I understand why the U.S. Senate committee had a few questions for the good doctor.

This CNN article outlines the grilling Oz was subjected to, led by Senator Claire McCaskill, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance.

“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles,’ ” said McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat. She said she was discouraged by the “false hope” his rhetoric gives viewers and questioned his role “intentional or not, in perpetuating these scams.”

“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.”

In response, Dr. Oz had this to say,

We have to simplify complicated information. We have to make the material seem interesting and focus on the ‘wow’ factor.”

In other words, my viewers are not only stupid, but they are enticed by bright, shiny objects, so I have to say stuff like this to keep their attention.

Oh Dr. Oz, shame on you.

Last year consumers spent $2.4 Billion on weight loss products. Oz-endorsed products did particularly well; they call it “The Oz Effect”. Oz, you are indeed great and powerful, but as Senator McCaskill noted above, with great power comes great responsibility.

You may be asking yourself how Dr. Oz, or anyone else for that matter, could make claims like “magic in a bottle” and get away with it. It’s because the claims made need not be substantiated or approved by the FDA.

Yep, you read that right.

Dietary supplements are completely unregulated in the U.S. So marketers of these products can tell you that their products will “melt the pounds off”, provide “miracle weight loss” or whatever else they’d like to say, because they don’t need to prove any of it.

You can thank the lobbyists for that.

Here is what the fantastic John Oliver had to say about the situation. His diatribe on Dr. Oz is absolutely hilarious and entertaining, but the really bothersome and unsavory stuff starts at around the 5 minute mark, when he focuses his rant on the FTC, the FDA and the all-powerful lobby groups. Have a look:

In my opinion, there’s plenty of blame to go around;

  • Dr. Oz, while not financially gaining from the sales of the products he has endorsed on his show, does use completely inappropriate, flowery and misleading statements for the sizzle factor and to engage his audience. This is not cool.
  • The current relationship and oversight of the FTC & FDA (or lack thereof) does not work. The heavy influence of the mighty lobby groups is clear and evident. When will the government institute a watchdog system to address this?
  • John Q. Public. You, me, all of us. Magic pills? Miracle weight loss? COME ON! Really?

I know that hope springs eternal, and that everyone would love the idea of a silver bullet.

The truth about sustained weight loss is not sexy. It has no sizzle, or “wow factor”, as Dr. Oz puts it. The only way to achieve and maintain sustainable weight loss is to adopt a lifestyle that includes healthy food choices and exercise. I think deep down we all know this to be true.

So if we continue to spend $2.4 Billion on weight loss products, in light of all this information, then that’s on us. And that’s a real shame.

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy



95 thoughts on “the great and powerful oz

  1. Oh yes! Didn’t John Oliver tear him a new one? And I’m skeptical that Oz didn’t receive anything of benefit by pushing those products. He sounds just like a snake oil salesman in the clips I saw. And my last blog post points out that “Payment Doesn’t Always Look Like Money.” Maybe Oz knows that all too well?

    • You could be right, Kathy. I chose to believe his claims that he gets “paid nothing for any of the products he reviews” on his show. I think what he’s doing is bad enough without the added prospect of him profiting from it directly.

  2. Ugh, exercise and diet – yawn. I want the shiny thing 😉
    I really can’t believe that those things aren’t regulated. I don’t know about in the EU – I bet Simone will – but I hope so. I don’t THINK you can claim magical weight loss etc, but of course they’re always trying to make some new thing sound more amazing than the last thing – while skating just inside the lines of the law!
    (PS. I just watched an episode of Once Upon a Time – magic really does exist. Just not in weight loss 😉 )

  3. I will admit that I saw something on his show, went and did research and discovered that it wasn’t good for me at all! I stopped paying attention to anything Dr. Oz related after that. 😦 He used to be good, he used to talk about real life and options, but the past year or two, it’s been a lot of snake oil .

    • I was absolutely shocked when I saw this story, Kate. Call me naïve, but I guess I expected more …integrity… from a medical doctor. Snake oil, indeed.

  4. Sadly, all the blame should be assigned to us as consumers. the actual science related to all these magic pills, as well as the negative effects are well documented, but we ignore them because we are in fact wooed by the bright shiny lights.

  5. I was disappointed in Dr. Oz that he would make these statements, and I’m glad the Senate called him on it. I’m glad to hear he’s not getting money from these companies, and maybe he didn’t realize the potential harm in his words, but anyone promoting health and well-being should know better.

    • I believe him when he says he didn’t get paid by the companies that market these products, but he readily admitted that the used the flowery language he used because it “engages” his audience. So, although he didn’t get directly paid for it, he did profit from the behavior, in terms of viewership, etc.

      It’s disappointing, for sure, because of the standards we (rightly) hold doctors to, but as I said in my summary, he’s not the only one with culpability here. At a certain point we, the public, need to hold some accountability for buying into the nonsense being promoted to us by Dr. Oz or anyone else. Both snake oil, and the people who want to buy it, are alive and well in the 21st century.

  6. You should read “Do you Believe in Magic – The Sense and Nonsense of Holistic Medicine” by Dr.Paul Offit. It’s excellent, and it’s all about the danger of celebrity endorsements and the lack of regulation of the supplement industry. I really enjoyed it, even though there were some really sad and horrible stories about people being taken advantage of by dr. Oz and the likes. I never really bought into the Dr. Oz craze, but I will watch it every once in awhile if I’m home at that time just to see what kind of dog and pony show he has going on that day. I think the presence of encouraging health is great, but surely there has to be a better way to pad your pockets than to tout dangerous supplements.

    • Sounds interesting, I’ll have to see if I can get it on the Kindle before my next flight to Vegas. Of course it might induce some involuntary profanity during the flight…

      I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of that show myself, but he just seems so nice, you want to believe him. Scary. (If you watched the John Oliver video, you’ll see the bit where a local news team air the story and then STILL says they would buy something because Dr. Oz says it’s good…AFTER seeing his testimony at the Senate committee hearing!!)

      Scary how easily influenced we are by both the desire for a quick and easy fix AND a charming and good looking doctor.

      • You can definitely get it for your kindle, I read it on mine. I think you will really enjoy it!

  7. I quit watching Dr. Oz over a year ago because every other show was about some other miracle product that would solve various disorders. Year one was his best and then it went downhill, but how else could he keep the attention of his viewers? One can only talk poop so much 🙂

    • Exactly, Ingrid! John Oliver actually made that observation — you can’t do 348 episodes (or whatever the total # is) and have fresh content. Medicine/heath doesn’t have that much news to report on! Poor bastard needs to make shit up! 🙂

  8. This is exactly right! There is no magic potion or pill no matter how much we might want there to be one!
    (Believe me…right after workout 4 of insanity I’d really like there to be an easier way 😉 )
    Dr Oz is not someone I know much about, he is not as prevalent over here so his endorsements are not something I know much about. However you could substitute any set of “celebrity endorsed diet pill/supplement” the thing I suppose that makes this worse is that he appears to be a qualified MD!
    It baffles me that there are so many medical professionals who give such poor/dangerous advice on such an important subject!

    • Dr. Oz is quite the celebrity here in North America, Sam, and yes, he is very much an accredited medical doctor. One with degrees from two Ivy League universities, as a matter of fact. This guy is very smart, very charismatic and very qualified, which is why his endorsement means so much to product sales. (And also why it’s so disappointing.)

      We all wish for the magic pill, I think that’s only natural, but deep down we all know that it takes real work, hard work, to achieve better health. You are doing it right, m’lady.

      Oh, and on the celebrity-endorsed stuff — I can’t tell you how angry (and sad, and disappointed) I was to see Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper hocking supplements. I get that they make a lot of money doing it, but at some point doesn’t that conflict with your integrity?

      • I have to say I have heard of him, but had no idea how well qualified and accredited he was, that makes it even worse!!
        I don’t know if at some point celebrity becomes more important than integrity, I have to hope that people will see through it one day!
        I can’t begin to comprehend the hundreds and hundreds or pounds people must waste just hoping one of these will work!! It makes me angry when otherwise intelligent people fall for it again and again!

      • Exactly. And forget all the potions and pills people are wasting their money on; what about all the treadmills, elliptical machines, thighmasters, etc. that get sold the first week of the new year, only to gather dust a couple of weeks later when the buyer realizes it’s hard work to use those things and that the fat doesn’t immediately “melt away”. Same goes for gym memberships and the influx of gym-goers the first couple of weeks of the new year. I avoid the gym at all costs during that time because I know (sadly) that the crowds will thin considerably after week two, and then be pretty much back to normal by early Feb.
        Makes me sad.

      • It is sad and crazy! The amount of gizmos you see that will burn all the fat and make you have the best body ever in just 2 mins a year with no effort, and people just hand over the credit card!
        It is really something that needs to be addressed more often!

      • I’m looking forward to your future blog posts on this subject, now that you’ll have more blogging time by moving to a summary of workouts schedule! 🙂

      • So much crap out there — too much fodder for the fire! You and I have an unending supply of material, unfortunately. That’s how big a business this thing is.

  9. What a load of codswallop, as we say on the other side of the pond. Of course he benefits financially from endorsing this crap. If not directly, then indirectly. He needs taking down a peg or six.

  10. John Oliver is too intelligent for America. I continue to wish him BOUNDLESS success, because he’s really committed to exposing how shitty our processes are. This is one example of many, and I for one will watch every stinking one.

  11. “We have to simplify complicated information. We have to make the material seem interesting and focus on the ‘wow’ factor.” Un-fucking-believable. How is this stuff not regulated? And surely the Doc must be getting some sort of invisible kick-back?

    Of course, the main reason this article has riled me so much is because I hate sit-ups and was really hoping those pills would work. Thanks Nanc!

    • Even if he’s not getting paid directly, he benefits indirectly from increased viewership, tv sponsors, etc. There is a strong upside or else he wouldn’t promote this shit.

      And I hear you, brother. I wish for a true magic pill all the time.

  12. In a really weird coincidence, I read this article just before I read your post, and I was already pretty stunned that there is zero regulation – I always assumed there was a little but that is was kind of lax (don’t you know there’s one weird tip to cure belly fat?). I can’t believe that someone who is medically trained is coming out with this total BS, he’s a disgrace! But I do agree, a lot of blame has to lie with the consumer. No one would believe there was an easy fix to turn a junk-heap like mine into a sports car, so why would they believe it about their health??

  13. The John Oliver piece is brilliant. And I trust nothing anyone says on TV. They are getting paid to say whatever they say, so it’s all suspect. That being said. “Dr.” Oz should be ashamed of himself for stooping so low as to promote untested and harmful products for the sake of ratings. He should really have his license stripped away for doing so.

  14. Thanks for writing this article Nancy! My thoughts have gone in the same direction for a while now…seeing him tout/endorse all kinds of miracle products, not only on his show (which I don’t watch) but everywhere on the internet and print media. I’ve been horrified of his reckless behavior. Sad that so many people have put their “faith” in him and bought useless and maybe even dangerous products expecting miracles, other than a big hole in their wallet.

  15. I thought I had already commented on here. I started to and must have gotten distracted! I watched some of the hearings and he really did not have good answers for most of those questions. I understand that he is trying to be inspiring and positive but he does not have to go to that extent! I have definitely lost respect for him.

    A couple of years ago, my brother in law (J) who is a cardiologist in New Jersey, saw a patient who was being treated by Dr.Oz. Dr.Oz called J to discuss his patient and J’s secretary took the call. When the secretary and ladies in the office made a big deal about the fact that Dr. Oz was on the phone, J said, “Who the hell is Dr. Oz?”. The ladies were in shock that J did not know who he was. J and Dr. Oz disagreed on an issue and were arguing. When J hung up, the ladies told J they couldn’t believe he had argued with Dr. Oz. J told them that he didn’t care who this Oz was, the fact was- that he was wrong! When J got home and told my sister the story ,she yelled at him for yelling at Dr. Oz. LOL.

    • OMG Maria, that story is hilarious! See even his own wife took Dr Oz’s side — that’s how charismatic and influential he is! This is why his endorsements carry so much weight – and why he was dragged over the coals.

      He knows better! (Still, he is very handsome!) 😉

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