More Than Half of Medical Advice on ‘Dr. Oz’ Lacks Proof or Contradicts Best Available Science: Study

Oz
Dr. Mehmet Oz at the 52nd Monte Carlo Television Festival in Monaco on June 13, 2012. Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Here’s one to tell your mother: Not everything Dr. Oz says should be interpreted as gospel.

A new study tried to fact-check the advice dished out on Mehmet Oz’s medical show and didn’t have much luck.

“The research supporting any of these recommendations is frequently absent, contradictory or of poor quality,” Christina Korownyk, an associate professor at the University of Alberta’s medical school and a co-author of the study published this week in The BMJ, said in a statement.

“Some patients come in and say, ‘I heard on Dr. Oz yesterday that we should all be doing this.’ And then we’re left scrambling in our office to try to find answers,” Korownyk said. “It got us reflecting, What’s being said there? What kinds of things are being recommended and what kind of information is being provided?”

The research team looked at 40 randomly selected episodes each of The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors, another medical show. They isolated 80 pieces of medical advice from each program and gave medical researchers an hour per piece of advice to find out whether the advice had any evidence to support it. A lot of it didn’t.

“One out of three recommendations from The Dr. Oz Show has believable evidence, and about half of the recommendations on The Doctors has believable evidence,” Mike Allan, another Alberta medical professor and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

Of the health recommendations that appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, researchers found evidence to support 46 percent, meaning that 46 percent of the time the show gave solid advice. But 15 percent of the time, the advice directly contradicted best available evidence. A whopping 39 percent of the time, the researchers found no evidence to support the advice.

The Dr. Oz Show chalks up the results of the study to its willingness to highlight methods that might not fit in with popular opinion.

The Dr. Oz Show has always endeavored to challenge the so-called conventional wisdom, reveal multiple points of view and question the status quo. The observation that some of the topics discussed on the show may differ from popular opinion or various academic analyses affirms that we are furthering a constructive dialogue about health and wellness,” a spokesman for the show wrote to Newsweek.

In a profile of Dr. Mehmet Oz in The New Yorker last year, Oz put it this way: 

“Ultimately, if we want to fix American medicine we will need skeptical and smart patients to dominate,” he said. “They will need to ask the hard questions, because much of medicine is just plain old logic. So I am out there trying to persuade people to be those patients. And that often means telling them what the establishment doesn’t want them to hear: that their answers are not the only answers, and their medicine is not the only medicine.”

Your best bet is probably to listen to your own doctors, Allan said. “Our bottom line conclusion is to be skeptical of what you hear on these shows.”