Senator Smacks Down Dr. Oz for Diet Supplement Nonsense

Dr. Mehmet Oz , a popular TV personality, is better known for his charisma than his medical expertise, and no wonder why – he’s constantly hawking dubious treatments, and recently the chair of the U.S. Senate’s Consumer Protection panel called him out for it.

Oz’s shilling for diet supplements now has the attention of comic John Oliver, to devastating effect, but readers will have to go all the way to the end of this piece to get the link.

Oz testified at a Senate hearing about deceptive advertising for over-the-counter diet supplements and products. According to CBS News, Sen. Claire McCaskill told him, “I get that you do a lot of good on your show [“The Dr. Oz Show”]. But I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true.”

The “stuff” is the outrageous, even false claims he routinely makes about “miracle” dietary and health supplements (See our blog, “Pulling Back the Curtain on Dr. Oz”).

Oz defended himself by claiming that if you can inspire someone to start a weight-loss regimen by using products readily available, you’re doing a good thing.

He isn’t concerned that these useless products have no scientific foundation and encourage people to believe in magic. He is concerned about getting “folks to realize there are different ways they can rethink their future.”

But as McCaskill told CBS, he’s just fueling the sketchy diet industry with unscientific claims. That’s not how you “rethink” your future; that’s how you waste money on worthless products that serve only to set back a true effort at nutritional reform and weight loss.

A couple of years ago, Oz promoted a product on his show called green coffee bean extract. Half a million bottles of the pills were sold, and the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer for false advertising.

Oz defended his endorsement of it by citing a clinical study that McCaskill criticized because it was funded by the product’s manufacturer.

“People want to believe you can take an itty-bitty pill to push fat out of your body,” McCaskill said during the hearing. But “the scientific community is almost monolithically against you.”

The civil justice blog also found fault with Oz’s latest performance. In addition to the coffee bean extract claim, it reported, McCaskill cited two others Dr. Oz has made on his program that stretch credulity:

  • “I’ve got the No. 1 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.”…

PopTort noted that Oz features alternative medicines on his show, and that Consumer Reports just published a study that found that 2 in 3 Americans think the word “natural” on the label of a packaged or processed food means it contains no artificial ingredients, pesticides or genetically engineered organisms. In fact, it means exactly nothing, as federal labeling rules do not exist for that term.

And Oz’s support of so-called “natural” treatments reinforces the lie that it does mean something.

According to CBS, Oz agreed to testify at the hearing because he supports lawmakers’ efforts to make companies accountable, require transparency about their products’ claims and ensure safety.

Some members of Congress want to give the FDA the power to regulate supplements, which it does not have now. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act allows safety and efficacy testing of supplements to be done by the manufacturer. By law, companies selectively may provide information to the FDA and consumers. If a product is suspected to be unsafe, the FDA must investigate before it can remove the product from the market.

The proposed Dietary Supplement Labeling Act would require all companies and manufacturers to register their products with the FDA and disclose information about known risks and adverse effects. It also would require them to include more information on product labels.

As McCaskill told Oz, “I know you know how much power you have. … You can be part of the police here or you can be part of the problem.”

Clearly, comedian John Oliver believes he’s the latter. Oliver did a hilarious and informative takedown of Oz on his HBO TV show, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” In addition to portraying Oz as the huckster he is, Oliver indicted the lack of “regulatory zeal” by a Congress that succumbs to the lobbying of the supplement industry.

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