“Consumers should be skeptical about any recommendations provided on television medical talk shows,” the researchers wrote in a study published this week in BMJ. “Viewers need to realize that the recommendations may not be supported by higher evidence or presented with enough balanced information to adequately inform decision making.”
Critics of Dr. Mehmet Oz, an accomplished cardiac surgeon with degrees from two Ivy League universities, complain that his show is little more than an hour-long infomercial for weight-loss fads like green coffee bean extract. (The Federal Trade Commission has sued the company that hawks this dubious product.) A spokesman for the Center for Inquiry accused him of selling “snake oil.” In June, a Senate subcommittee took him to task for telling his viewers (who number 2.9 million on any given day) things like: “I’ve got the No. 1 miracle in a bottle to burn your fat. It’s raspberry ketones.”
The Canadians focused on “The Dr. Oz Show” and “The Doctors,” another daily talk show that averages 2.3 million viewers per day. After watching two episodes of each program, they hypothesized that only half of the claims made on the shows could be supported with actual evidence. They also calculated that they would need to review 158 specific recommendations to see whether their hypothesis was correct.