Pulling back the curtain on Dr. Oz

Have you bowed down before the great and powerful Oz? No, I’m not referring to the fictional wizard from Dorothy’s magical land. I’m talking about mass-marketed medical guru and Oprah protégé, Dr. Oz. And while he may be powerful, the scientific community is not convinced that his recommendations are all that great. On paper, Dr. Mehmet […]

Have you bowed down before the great and powerful Oz? No, I’m not referring to the fictional wizard from Dorothy’s magical land. I’m talking about mass-marketed medical guru and Oprah protégé, Dr. Oz. And while he may be powerful, the scientific community is not convinced that his recommendations are all that great.

On paper, Dr. Mehmet Oz has all the qualifications of a pre-eminent medical expert. He holds degrees from both Harvard and University of Pennsylvania, has authored numerous research publications, and is currently a professor and the vice-chair of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. By all accounts, Oz is both an exceptionally bright and charismatic man.

Yet, it’s these same qualities that have incited the ire of so many physicians and scientists. Given his education and influence, there’s no excuse for the unsubstantiated claims and sensational language that is so pervasive on his show. I’m not sure whether it’s willful blindness or calculated deception that causes him to disregard rigorous scientific standards. But the result is that many of his recommendations are akin to the cure-all elixirs peddled by door-to-door salesmen in the patent medicine era of the late 1800s.

A quick jaunt into the science blogosphere reveals a litany of unsubstantiated claims including: the effects of low-calorie sweeteners on appetite; red palm oil and raspberry ketones as effective weight-loss supplements; excessive coffee consumption to prevent diabetes; fear mongering about arsenic levels in apple juice; and even lending credibility to homeopathy. These posts are being written by a growing number of concerned scientists. Oz often supports these claims by hosting “experts,” such as quack physician and anti-vaccine proponent, Joseph Mercola, describing him as a “pioneer in alternative medicine” and “a man your doctor doesn’t want you to know.”

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