Dr. Oz Defends His Show’s Impact on Weight-Loss Scams

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Celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” said during a senate subcommittee hearing today that he is “second-guessing” the way he presents weight-loss ingredients and dietary supplements on his television show. The hearing, which centered on the topic of protecting consumers from deceptive weight-loss products and advertising, also heard testimony from the FTC, the Council of Better Business Bureaus, internet industry group TrustInAds.org, and dietary supplement associations the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the Natural Products Association.


During the hearing, Dr. Oz said he is frustrated by companies that falsely employ his name, image, or statements to endorse and sell questionable weight-loss products. (Oz emphasized that he does not sell or endorse any dietary supplements.) “Part of the reason why I came today is because this is a huge problem for me,” he said. “I’m forced to defend my reputation every single day.”


But the senators, led by Consumer Protection Subcommittee chair Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), told the doctor that the language he is known to use on his show may create unrealistic expectations and high demand when it comes to the weight-loss potential of supplements, driving consumers to unintentionally purchase products from fraudulent marketers. McCaskill quoted some of Oz’s statements on his show, including, “I’ve got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat—it’s raspberry ketone” and “Garcinia cambogia: it may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”


“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products [green coffee bean extract, Garcinia cambogia, and raspberry ketones] that you’ve called miracles,” McCaskill said. “And when you call a product a ‘miracle,’ and it’s something that you can buy and it gives people false hope, I just don’t understand why you needed to go there.”


Oz said that while he recognizes that his “flowery” language has been “incendiary” in terms of sparking product demand and opening opportunities for “unscrupulous advertisers,” “I feel as a host of a show that [if] I can’t use words that are flowery, that are exhilaratory, I feel like…my power has been taken away to get to people.” And, he noted that he has worked in the past two years to tone down his language.


When asked if he believes there is a magic pill for weight loss, Oz said, “If you’re selling something because it’s magical, no. If you’re arguing that it’s going to be like magic because if you stop eating carbohydrates, you’re going to lose a lot of weight, that’s a truthful statement. You might not agree with the flowery use of the word magic, but it is true that most people cutting out simple carbs will lose weight.”


Oz said he believes in the products he recommends. “I actually do personally believe in the items I talk about in the show. I passionately study them.” Also, he noted, on his show he warns viewers that the dietary supplements he recommends are not meant for long-term use but as a way to kick-start a weight loss program, in combination with diet and exercise.


Still, he said, “Your comments about the language I use is well heard, and I appreciate it…I’m in a situation where I’m second-guessing every word I use on this show right now.”


Oz told the senators he believes fraudulent supplement marketing will only lessen when regulatory agencies increase enforcement against fraudulent marketers. Moreover, he said, it will take a “public-private cooperative effort,” including between the FTC, legitimate product manufacturers, Internet ad hosting services, and media outlets like “The Dr. Oz Show.”


Oz had a few more suggestions. He proposed creating a private-sector list in which celebrities can cite which products they actually endorse in order to help web-hosting services determine which products are legitimately endorsed. Second, he suggested incentivizing employees to report unlawful practices at companies like supplement firms. And, finally, he suggested creating a bounty-hunting system, funded by the private sector, to track down fraudulent marketers online.


Oz also questioned whether he should start mentioning on his show reputable companies from which viewers can buy products. Until now, he said, he’s resisted doing so because he felt it lessened his credibility if viewers think he’s endorsing products.


“I came here [to this hearing] because I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” he said.


Jennifer Grebow
Nutritional Outlook magazine

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