Dr. Mehmet Oz is everywhere—on TV, all over the web and often cited as an authority in news stories. You have to wonder why he’s so popular, given how often his advice is bad, and sometimes dangerous.
This isn’t the first time we’ve called Dr. Oz on the carpet, and our purpose is not to pile on—but when someone as prominent as he is also prominently wrong, you have to step up.
A few months ago, he addressed the problem of fatigue. Now that’s a big-tent complaint that can result from so many health problems only a simpleton would believe there’s a single, effective cure.
As an anonymous internal medicine physician blogging on WhiteCoatUnderground.com wrote,
“It’s rare to find a single cause (and therefore a single cure) for fatigue. Sometimes you get lucky and find a thyroid disorder or other simple problem, but more often it’s a mixture of factors such as overwork, depression, and stress. And it’s not always pathologic. If someone tells me that they’re fatigued, and they work 50 hours a week and are raising kids and taking care of parents, there’s not much to do except try to find ways to change circumstances or cope with fatigue.”
But medical science doesn’t stop Dr. Oz from championing the wonders of magnesium in a video in which he claims that 3 in 4 Americans are magnesium-deficient.
“It’s not remotely true,” said WhiteCoat. The blogger noted that medical literature finds such deficiency routine only among hospital patients, and that’s usually due to medication or illness.
The video wizard Oz explains that symptoms of magnesium deficiency are irritability, anxiety and lethargy, and offers Case Study Woman One describing an episode of these feelings, that, said White Coat, “sounds to my medical ear like a panic attack. … The guest is describing a real, treatable problem and is being fed fake solutions.”
Case Study Woman Two, according to White Coat, said: “I have five kids and I’m exhausted from the minute I get up to the moment I go to sleep. I need you to help me get my energy back!" White Coat's response:
"You can guess what the answer is. My answer is a bit different. The busy mom has a crazy life. She works hard. Working hard is exhausting. The cure for that sort of exhaustion is rest. …
“Selling a cure based on imaginary evidence isn’t just irresponsible,” continued White Coat, “it’s immoral and goes [against] a century of medical ethics. It’s behavior unsuited to a good physician, but probably a step up from your average carney.”
Then there was the story last month in the New York Daily News about a man in New Jersey who sued Oz after he followed his advice for better sleep and ended up with third-degree burns on his feet.
We can only imagine that it’s quite difficult to sleep when your feet are incinerating.
As promoted on Oz’s website, people seeking to boost their energy through better sleep were advised to make a “heated rice footsie”: “Simply pour rice into your socks, heat them in the microwave until they’re warm, then wear the socks for up to 20 minutes while lying in bed.”
The point, Oz said, is that a good night’s sleep depends on dropping your core body temperature slightly, and heating your feet diverts blood away from the core to those extremities.
Frank Dietl, a 76-year-old who suffers from diabetic neuropathy, diverted so much heat he ended up confined to bed for weeks. Neuropathy is a kind of nerve damage that results from poor circulation and high blood sugar; it is a common marker of diabetes. Because his damaged nerves, presumably, didn’t transmit the signal that his feet were burning, Dietl ended up with a serious injury.
As this blog is written, the Oz website still does not have a warning with its “toasty rice” recipe for slumber.
FindLaw’s Celebrity Justice blog sees the legal case this way: “Whether Dr. Oz may be liable may depend upon whether he even owes a duty of care to viewers like Dietl in the first place. While doctors clearly owe a duty of reasonable care to their patients, Dr. Oz is more a TV personality than Dietl's personal physician. Without a relationship between the two, Dr. Oz may be able to avoid liability completely.
“Then again, because Dr. Oz promotes himself and his expertise, an argument could be made that he owes a duty of care to all his viewers.”
As icing on this toxic cake, according to the Los Angeles Times, the "The Dr. Oz Show" website features a video, “Lisa Oz’s Guide to Family Health: Dr. Oz’s wife Lisa reveals the tips and tricks she uses to keep her family healthy and happy.”
We’ll take The Times’ word about the video—we didn’t have the stomach to spend any more time in digital Oz. The paper mentioned it only in context of a recent New Yorker profile of Dr. Oz called “The Operator: Is the most trusted doctor in America doing more harm than good?” that noted that Lisa Oz “has repeatedly expressed reservations about the value of some vaccinations,” including one released in 2009 to protect the public from the H1N1 swine flu. The couple’s children did not get the shot, a position the doctor disagreed with but explained to the New Yorker, “when I go home I’m not Dr. Oz, I’m Mr. Oz.”
Well, at least he’s consistent—bad advice for his family, bad advice for you.