“The public should be skeptical about recommendations made on medical talk shows.”
That was the conclusion of a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which found that existing medical research either did not support, or, in some cases, actively contradicted a full 50% of the medical advice dispensed by U.S. television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz.
“Recommendations made on medical talk shows often lack adequate information on specific benefits or the magnitude of the effects of these benefits,” the study concluded. “Approximately half of the recommendations have either no evidence or are contradicted by the best available evidence. Potential conflicts of interest are rarely addressed.”
According to the Washington Post, The Dr. Oz Show averages 2.9 million viewers per day, placing it among the top five most-watched talk shows in the United States. Another of Dr. Oz’s shows, The Doctors, averages 2.3 million viewers per day.
However, with all the popularity, and the branding and marketing that goes with it, some of Dr. Oz’s colleagues say that the doctor has morphed from being a medical practitioner into a celebrity.
“Mehmet is now an entertainer,” New York doctor Eric Rose told the New Yorker last year. “And he’s great at it. People learn a lot, and it can be meaningful in their lives… [But] sometimes Mehmet will entertain wacky ideas – particularly if they are wacky and have entertainment value.”
According to the Post, the study examined 40 episodes conducted by Dr. Oz and found that of the 479 separate medical recommendations he made on his shows, existing medical evidence only supported 46 percent of them, while 15 percent were contradictory and 39 percent could not be verified.
From the study:
Roughly a third of the recommendations on The Dr Oz Show and half of the recommendations on The Doctors were based on believable or somewhat believable evidence. Evidence was believable or somewhat believable against a recommendation for 1 in 8-10 recommendations. For slightly over 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 of the recommendations forThe Dr Oz Show and The Doctors respectively, no evidence could be found. This is despite us being quite liberal in the type and amount of evidence we required. The percentage of medical practice in the real world that is evidence based is difficult to ascertain, although one review reported an average of 78% of medical interventions were based on some form of “compelling” evidence. Comparisons are difficult, however, because the types of evidence that was required to determine this is considerably varied.
Still, as noted in the study’s conclusion, it’s worth asking “whether we should expect medical talk shows to provide more than entertainment.” Dr. Oz himself seemingly understands where the criticism comes from.
“I recognize that oftentimes they don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact,” Oz acknowledged at a June 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.”