How much scientific fact is behind the medical advice Dr. Oz and similar TV shows hand to viewers?
Researchers from Canada’s University of Alberta sat down and watched 40 episodes each of the Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors (a similar program, but not as prominent).
My hat is off to them. Me that would take some very serious willpower and end in curled up toe nails.
They did it in the name of science: checking against a huge pile of medical research they wanted to find out how much fact is married to the advice you hear on those shows.
Dr. Oz Loves Weight Loss
The stalwart Canadians first of all classified what topics were covered:
- Weight loss advice made up 43.2% of topics on Dr. Oz
- On The Doctors it was 16.8%
- 32% of topics on Dr. Oz was general medical advice
- On The Doctors this accounted for 65.5%
On average, a single episode of Dr. Oz features 12 recommendations (11 for The Doctors). No wonder I can’t keep up with the man.
Good Advice On Dr. Oz: 1 In 3
But how good was the advice? Was solid research behind the recommendations? Checking against reliable medical databases like the Cochrane Review, it looked like this:
- 21% of Dr. Oz recommendations had “believable” evidence
- 11% had “somewhat believable” evidence
- On The Doctors it was 32.5% and 20%
- 11% of claims on Dr. Oz were contradicted by good to average evidence
- On The Doctors it was 13%
In other words: only 1/3 of health claims featured on the Dr. Oz Show had any scientific backing and that’s counting even small shreds of evidence. With The Doctors you are luckier, because you have a 50/50 chance of hearing something with some facts behind it.
The paper’s authors summarize it like this:
Consumers should be skeptical about any recommendations provided on television medical talk shows, as details are limited and only a third to one half of recommendations are based on believable or somewhat believable evidence. An interesting question is whether we should expect medical talk shows to provide more than entertainment.
You can read the full thing for free over here (PDF).
It’s Just The Tip Of The Ozeberg
With all the bashing Dr. Oz received this year, we have to remember one thing: he is only the most prominent among those who take slim to non-existent evidence and blow it out of proportion to promote questionable supplements and cures.
There are tons more working by similar principles and that shady industry won’t go away just because Oz goes off the air.
Picture courtesy of “Wikimedia.”