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January 26, 2013

Slate: Dr. Oz' miracle diet is malarkey

(Continued)

One of those authors, Edzard Ernst, has dedicated his career to analyzing research on alternative and complementary medicine; he found that the supplement may be linked to adverse gastrointestinal effects. He told us, "Dr. Oz's promotion of this and other unproven or disproven alternative treatments is irresponsible and borders on quackery."

Still, people march into pharmacies or their physicians' offices every day asking for Dr. Oz-endorsed treatments — even when these treatments are backed by the barest of evidence or none at all. Oz's satellite patients spend tremendous amounts of money on products he recommends, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the "Oz Effect." After he promoted neti pots, for example, Forbes magazine reported sales and online searches for the nasal irrigation system rose by 12,000 percent and 42,000 percent, respectively.

Who can blame his viewers? Oz may be the most credentialed of celebrity health promoters. He's a professor and vice-chair of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He earned his degrees at Ivy League universities, namely Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. He's won a slew of medical awards (in addition to his Emmys) and co-authored hundreds of academic articles. He's clearly a smart guy with qualifications, status and experience. It's reasonable to assume he is well-versed in the scientific method and the principles of evidence-based medicine. "Because he's a physician, that lends a certain authority and credibility to his opinions," said Steven Novella, a clinical neurologist and assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine who has taken Oz to task for his science. "But it lends credibility to anything he says."

And lately, a lot of what Oz has been saying is downright wrong.

To support the awesome assertions about the flab-fighter Garcinia cambogia, the doctor created on his TV show an atmosphere of accessible scientific certainty. He brought out researchers and physicians in white coats who discussed what they said was compelling evidence for the weight-loss panacea. There was an inspiring testimonial from a member of the audience. Plastic models even demonstrated how garcinia could suppress appetite and stop fat from being made. The show had the same easy manner as Oprah discussing Leo Tolstoy with her book club.

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