Dr. Oz in particular has been coming under fire in the past year. First having to face the Subcommittee for Consumer Protection to discuss how he uses exaggerated terms when talking about vitamins and herbal supplements and then having a severe case of Twitter Backlash when he asked his followers for questions, only to get some hilarious responses including "Which type of snake oil to you prefer?"
This new study is really just the icing on the cake. The British Medical Journal just released a study where they analyzed the quality of the recommendations made on both Dr. Oz and the Doctors. They selected 40 episodes from each show last year and broke it down by the topics covered, the types of recommendations made, if the benefits and risks were discussed and if there was any research to back it up.
The results for both shows was not great. Of all the recommendations made between both shows (160), only 54% of the recommendations could find at minimum a small case study to back them up.
Here is a summary quote directly from the study:
For recommendations in The Dr Oz Show, evidence supported 46%, contradicted 15%, and was not found for 39%. For recommendations in The Doctors, evidence supported 63%, contradicted 14%, and was not found for 24%. Believable or somewhat believable evidence supported 33% of the recommendations on The Dr Oz Show and 53% on The Doctors.
The study certainly isn't perfect. It only captures a small portion of the episodes from each show which have been on for years now but it's overall message is important. Be skeptical.
A television doctor is not like your own doctor. They have to speak to their 2.9 million viewers each day and not to you as an individual. They also have to make the topics exciting to keep up their ratings and jam it all into the 10 minute segments they get between commercials. Because of this, they often don't take the time to discuss all the pros and cons of their recommendations, they don't take the time to point out potential conflicts of interest, they rarely show you the research it is based upon and sometimes it's not based on any.
Yet these doctors seem to have a greater influence then many public health organizations and they are also well trusted. I was happy to see in this study that on The Doctors show they were more often recommending you speak to your individual health professional. This is important since a good recommendation may still not be the right recommendation for you. I was also not surprised that doctor Oz tends to cover more weight loss and dietary recommendations than anything else (despite not working in nutrition).
If you enjoy watching these shows, go ahead an keep watching them but do keep in mind that it is a show for entertainment and should never be taken as serious medical advice. My final advice though:
If it sounds too good to be true....
If the words miracle or magical comes into play....
If it sounds like a one size fits all solution....
Change the channel.
If you would like to read the full study you can find it HERE.