As mainstream as Dr. Mehmet Oz is when it comes to celebrity-style health advice, he’s amassed quite a troop of detractors who accuse him of cashing in on junk science.
For Oz and his fans, hard science takes a back seat to miracle cures and magic weight loss claims. In April of last year, over 1,300 doctors said in a poll that he should resign from his faculty position at Columbia and have his medical license revoked.
In 2014, he was hauled before Congress to defend his claims – just before a study he touted as proof his “coffee extract” weight loss pills worked was retracted. Oz claimed the pills could “burn fat fast for anyone who wants to lose weight,” and the product’s owner Lindsey Duncan was a frequent guest on Oz’s show.
In the same year, the British Medical Journal published a study where researchers said that over half of Oz’s medical claims, including claims made on other talk shows, were not backed up by scientific research.
“Recommendations made on medical talk shows often lack adequate information on specific benefits or the magnitude of the effects of these benefits,” the researchers wrote. “… The public should be skeptical about recommendations made on medical talk shows.”
Oz claims he’s simply trying to provide people with a wide array of options when it comes to maintaining their health.
“I recognize that oftentimes [the products I endorse] don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact,” Oz said at his U.S. Senate hearing. “But, nevertheless, I give my audience the advice I give my family all the time. I give my family these products, specifically the ones you mentioned. I’m comfortable with that part.”
But according to the BMJ’s study, out of 479 medical recommendations made by Oz in 2013, scientific evidence only supported 46 percent of them, with 15 percent being directly refuted by evidence and other 36 percent being inconclusive.
“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,” the paper said. “… Decisions around healthcare issues are often challenging and require much more than non-specific recommendations based on little or no evidence.”
Considering all this, it’s probably fitting that the most notable pseudoscience and conspiracy theorist purveyor to ever run for president, Donald Trump, turned to Dr. Oz to reassure the voting public of his “incredible” health.
As Julia Belluz pointed out in Vox, Oz conducted a “made-for-TV physical of Trump.” There were “no actual exams, no hands laid on the patient, no verification of the patient’s data.” The segment consisted of just a “series of questions and the two pieces of paper” that Trump handed over.
“How do you stay healthy on the campaign trail?” Oz asked Trump.
“It’s a lot of work,” Trump replied. “When I’m speaking in front of fifteen and twenty thousand people and I’m up there using a lot of motion, I guess in its own way it’s a pretty healthy act. I really enjoy doing it. A lot of times these rooms are very hot, like saunas, and I guess that is a form of exercise and — you know?”
Oz made no effort to challenge Trump’s assertions. For all we know, Trump’s clean bill of health signed off on by Oz has about as much credibility as coffee bean pills that are supposed to make you skinny.