In this month’s edition of the British Medical Journal, researchers took a look at the claims made on two of the most popular internationally syndicated health talk shows, The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors.
They identified 479 recommendations from The Dr Oz Show and 445 recommendations from The Doctors, finding that on average, each episode contained about a dozen bits of health wisdom.
By randomly selecting the episodes, instead of cherry picking the worst offenders, their findings give us a true picture of the quality of the health claims that are being made.
And what they found was disappointing but not exactly surprising: about half of the health recommendations had either no evidence behind them or they actually contradicted what the best-available science tells us. That means about half of what these TV doctors say to their millions of satellite patients is woo, and potentially harmful and wasteful woo at that.
In regards to the health claims made, the alleged benefits were solely focused on while the potential harms were ignored.
“Anyone who followed the advice provided would be doing so on the basis of a trust in the host or guest rather than through a balanced explanation of benefits, harms, and costs,” the authors of the study wrote. “The near absence of potential conflict of interest reporting further challenges viewers’ ability to balance the information provided.”
“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.”