Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Tale of Two Oz's

First Dr. Oz the doctor who during his interview with Maclean's Science-ish's Julia Belluz, commented on the benefits of raspberry ketones for weight loss by stating,
"The amount of weight you’ll lose is two, three, four pounds more than you would have."
He also qualifies the statement with a "could be"

And how about Dr. Oz the television personality?

The episode on raspberry ketones was literally entitled,"Miracle Fat-Burner in a Bottle".

Dr. Oz the television personality described them as,
"I never understood how powerful it could be until I started doing research",
that he's,
"a big fan of these things",
and then to demonstrate how they supposedly worked in the body, took red balloons that he called fat cells and put them into liquid nitrogen where they promptly deflated.

To help make his case he brings on Lisa Lynn, a trainer who, yup, you guessed it, sells raspberry ketone supplements ($791.76 for a year's supply), and near the end of the segment he asks her,
"I want to be practical, I don't want to over promise, how long will it take to see a benefit"
Her unchallenged answer?
"5 days"
They then go through some exceedingly dramatic before and after photos, without commentary as to what changes aside from taking raspberry ketones the subjects had undertaken, and with the second subject a frank discussion that overtly suggested it was just the raspberry ketones that had done the trick.

His conclusions?
"I think this is worth experimenting with",
and that,
"they're going to help your body think it's thin."
The science behind raspberry ketones, if you want to call it that, are two shaky mouse studies....but even if we take them to be fully translatable into humans (a gigantic and unwarranted "if", but I'll be generous), let's go back to Dr. Oz the doctor who points out we're talking a 3lb (I split the difference) total loss consequent to their ingestion.

The miracle here isn't raspberry ketones. The miracle here, and it's not a pretty one, is that a doctor is recommending his patients (because his viewers see him as a purveyor of expertly vetted medical advice) spend $791.76 a year for a remotely plausible, but admittedly not conclusively attainable, 3lb total weight loss, and that he's describing that 3lb loss as, "powerful", "amazing", and, "a miracle".

Though I guess it's not exactly a miracle. It's just fame and fortune - powerful, powerful, drugs which seem in Dr. Oz' case, to allow for some interesting rationalizations.

[Pssst, hey, want a super secret miraculous way to lose those 3lbs without spending hundreds of dollars on questionable supplements?  Try a 3 minute walk a day.  A year later, those same 3lbs will be gone.]

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  1. Lowell6:24 am

    I'm no Dr. Oz apologist, but I think you have to give him 'credit' at the end for saying things like, "Look, this isn't a miracle pill. Make good choices, eat healthy and exercise." (I say 'credit' because this is said AFTER he talked about 'amazing' and 'a big fan of these things' too.) So I'm not exonerating him from the first part, but I think you're only reporting one side of his presentation, which is exactly what people blame Dr. Oz for doing...only presenting one side of things. (Not that there aren't other things to blame him hawking the very things he calls 'amazing' and so on.) Just food for thought...

    1. I don't know how you reconcile those two sides. Why would a doctor recommend and promote, on his show, a substance that costs $800 and amounts to no more than 3 additional pounds of lost weight? There should not be two sides. There should be one. Be genuine. A doctor has responsibilities.

    2. Lowell11:25 am

      I don't disagree that the two sides are hard to reconcile. I just think that if you're going to bash him, at least give more context and give him some benefit for saying things that make sense. If you read only the review above, you wouldn't think anything sensible was ever said on the show. (I'm not suggesting the ratio of sensible:nonsense is very good...just that it's not zero.)

    3. spoken like a shill

  2. Lowell6:26 am

    Oh...and I meant to add that I think his 'analogy' of the fat cells is ridiculous. I've only ever watched Dr. Oz once, a few months ago with my wife. I can't recall the details, but I remember clearly that he used some sort of demonstration that was meant to be analogous just like the baloons, and it was just as ridiculous. I decided pretty quickly after that 'demonstration' that he wasn't a reliable source of information.

  3. I agree with the above re: "both sides".

    In addition, while you reference an almost $800 annual cost from Lynn, you can easily purchase the same thing for half that, if not less.

    Last, I suspect people are wise enough that they don't buy a year's supply at once...maybe one month, maybe three...and that if they aren't seeing results, won't continue. Granted, their results may be from other factors, but many will see a $35 - $100 investment as worthwhile to give them an advantage rather than waiting years (if done at all) for appropriate studies (which, given the research community, will likely still be ambiguous!).

  4. Bobbini8:32 am

    As with most everything in the weight loss promotion industry, follow the money. Nobody makes any money from 'live the healthiest life you can enjoy.'

    And LabDaddy, even at $30-$100 for the supplement, you're still talking about spending $10-$30 per pound of weight theoretically, potentially lost.

    1. I suspect there is a time frame not stated in the 3-5 pound claim.

      Re: "live the healthiest life you can enjoy"

      The issue is determining that "healthiest life", and honestly, contrary to your belief, there has been a lot of money made, and continues to be made, in what is currently preached as the "healthiest life" even though obesity has skyrocketed over the past 30 years based on that advice.

  5. People always ask me about Dr. Oz's crap and then when I discount it, it's, "He says these are things your doctor doesn't know about." It's not that I don't know about them, it's that they're not worth your money.

    As for that "it's not a miracle pill:" after Oz says how amazing and magical things are, people don't listen to that other stuff. Ever looked at after Dr. Oz recommends a product? Even before the show is over, people are buying those magic cures.

    Oz is really a fitting a name. Don't mind the man behind the curtain, trust the wizard on the stage.

    1. Anonymous12:22 am

      Very true about Dr. Oz and his influence on products. I Manage a health food store. For a week or so after an 0z episode the product sells out.. after that not one person comes back for a second bottle. If I even attempt to show them a cheaper, healther and more effective product most customers get angry. I hope Oz doen't tell people to take motor oil on April 1st, because 100s of people would blindly follow!

    2. Anonymous9:54 am

      I agree with Amanda and Anonymous. I sell organic products and have been bombarded with requests from my customers to offer this product. After a lot of research, I just told them it would be better for them to just take a brisk walk. Most of the ketone products are artificially created due to the high demand. Artificially created from what? I've heard from some people that started taking this "magic weight-loss cure", have had increased headaches and felt irritable. Like most products offered on TV - it's about the money.

  6. I almost never watch Dr Oz. The few times I have the show either seems preachy or very alarmist. I would have thought he'd have the good sense to stay away from quackery though.

  7. I don't get the fascination with Dr. Oz. I have watched a few of his shows and just don't get it. His personality is not exactly what I would expect for a prime time show and the stuff he says/products etc are way out there. I struggle to watch a whole show.

  8. Dr. Oz promotes vaccinations but does not vaccinate his own wife and children. He sent parents into a panic because he doesn't understand the difference between naturally occurring arsenic in apple seeds and poison. And he, day after day, hawks the latest useless money-making scheme. On a recent episode of his show, he PROMOTED bariatric surgery!

    This man should be stopped.

  9. Anonymous11:12 am

    As a medical professional, I can't stand Dr Oz. He is nothing but a sellout, and the simile between him & the wizard of Oz is too hilarious to ignore. I hope no one goes too far trying to follow his 'advice'.

  10. The 3 minutes walking/ 3 pounds thing is just as dodgy. I used to walk 40 minutes a day, in addition to doing higher intensity exercise several times a week. When I was forced to stop all that temporarily because of a bad hip, did I gain 40+ pounds? No, I didn't. More like fifteen pounds. The same fifteen pounds that I lost when I took up regular exercise originally. The same fifteen pounds that doesn't make any difference in my BMI category. Good thing weight loss isn't/wasn't my goal.

  11. Anonymous1:41 pm

    Dr. Oz is the worst! ugh... he's so sensational and relies to heavily on saying things like....after this commercial break I will show you some thing that has been secretly killing you your entire life, and the simple and easy step to reverse 20 years of aging!!

    ugh its ridiculous.

  12. I would love to think that people are in general intelligent enough not to take Dr. Oz's advice on anything. But unfortunately, every time something is shown on his show, I get bombarded with requests for the product. I cannot tell you how many patients my colleagues and I have had to actively discourage from using something he recommended, not to mention that almost 100% of the time we don't carry the product in Canada, a revelation that is invariably met with looks of incredulity. Sadly, not all pharmacists like the evidence. They just want the money. So where we have been telling our patients flat out that raspberry ketones are absolute crap, the independent across the street is ordering in case loads to support the demand, which, by the way, invariably wears after by the next Oz episode and never persists past the first bottle purchased. I had one patient come to me looking for a new weight loss product called NV that she saw on Dr. Oz. Unaware that I was to receive a large shipment that day, I told her I'd never heard of it. She looked at me like I'd just escaped from the nuthouse and said, in the snottiest voice possible, "It was on Dr. Oz. It's one of the things he says is safe." My response: "That usually doesn't mean anything." Her response? "But he's a DOCTOR. And he's on TV." Holy crap people? Did you know that? If you are a doctor AND you're on TV, you MUST be telling the truth 100% of the time and NEVER have any hidden commercial reason for the recommendations you make. Deplorable.

    1. Re: "So where we have been telling our patients flat out that raspberry ketones are absolute crap"

      Curious: do you have scientific research to back that up, or is that an unsubstantiated claim?

  13. I prefer to get my medical/dietary advice from my own doctor, not some TV shill.

  14. I routinely watch the show, but keep an open and skeptical mind.

    It seems like a lot of people write him off entirely. I see that as the opposite extreme of those who mindlessly run to the store to buy products on his show.

    He has a lot of good information. For one example, I've incorporated coconut oil into my diet. All sorts of organizations caution against the use of significant amounts of it due to its high levels of saturated fat.

    Problem with that is that it contains a high level of lauric acid which raises HDL and are primarily composed of MCTs which do not carry the same risks as other saturated fats.

    I look at his show as exposing me to new ideas, and it is up to me to further explore those ideas before implementing them.

    Seems like a reasonable approach to me.

  15. I too am getting tired of his promotion of 'miracle' weight loss suggestions. It sucks in the ignorant. Thanks for being a counter-voice in this world of weight loss. I enjoy your posts. And walking 3k a day will have the same results!

  16. Anonymous2:25 pm

    LabDaddy: Coconut oil raises both HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, not just HDL levels. It may be 'less bad' than other foods high in saturated fats (like butter) but you'd be better off using something like olive oil which tends to raise HDL and lower LDL.

    1. I'm not sure that is correct re: raising LDL. Studies I've seen indicate otherwise, and may be due to the MCTs involved.

  17. I'm not a big fan of Dr. Oz. I've seen his show (mostly when I'm at the gym & it's on the tv) and I've noticed his show become so much about "miracle" weight-loss, or lost 10 lbs in 2 weeks, miracle superfoods, etc. His show is less & less about health, and more just about losing weight the fast way.

    Thanks for breaking this down and showing his two sides.

    It's just disappointing that he's more into rating than actually showing us good, useful information.

  18. Anonymous3:44 pm

    Sensational claims like this sully the discussions he has about legitimate, scientifically based programs and products. He has this big partnership with Weight Watchers now, which DOES have science to support its program but being lumped in together with raspberry ketones makes everything he talks about look suspicious.

    If only we could get Nutrition Diva to say Weight Watchers was the best. Now THAT would be an endorsement I would relish.

  19. Have to take everything Dr. Oz says with a grain or two of salt and listen af is he were a politician, paying special attention to the "coulds", "mights" and "maybes." I know he has an impossible task, finding content for 5 hours a week to keep viewers interested must be next to impossible. I quit watching him a long time ago. His audio-visuals are usually pretty stupid, too.

  20. Anonymous4:48 pm

    I'm disappointed in the good doc. He's been shilling for his sponsors for a while now. Used to think he was one of the sane voices on the topic of health, but since he got his own show...I don't watch. He's got a lot of air time to fill, and it's hard to say eat right and exercise for five hours a week and keep people from turning off the TV. So, he sells a little of his soul each week (for top dollar).

  21. I think the word scumbag is a little harsh, I think he is trying to show natural alternatives which i respect but the goofy insulting hands on type of demonstrations he employs on every damn show are totally annoying. does he think his viewing audience are kindergarteners? sheesh. anyway, if i see one more "Dr" show i think I'm gonna hurl. enough already, we get it! eat right and exercise! He talks about it on every show as does the show "The Doctors" and now there's a doctor as one of the panelist of the new show "the revolution." this diet, that diet, yada yada yada. enough already! we get it! how is it humanly possible that people don't know how to eat right and exercise at this point? unreal.

  22. Lisa Lynn isn't even selling pure RK - the supplement she's peddling is a blend, and there's no label info available to tell what amount of RK is in the product.

    When label info is concealed like that, it's nearly always a "red flag." There's a high probability that the ingredient is underdosed, or even just "label decoration."

    The blurb for the linked product claims:

    "The Accelerator is a special blend of herbs and nutrients that creates a feeling of fullness and acts as a catalyst to jump-start your metabolism and the fat burning process! Key ingredients in this supplement’s special formula will rid your body of excess water, balance blood sugar levels and generate the energy you need to complete workouts with greater ease."

    Sounds very much like it consists mostly of...

    1. a diuretic (dandelion is often used for this purpose).
    2. one of several possible "anti-diabetic" herbs/compounds (like bitter melon, Gymnema sylvestre, chromium - there are a range of these)
    3. caffeine - the line about "generate the energy you need" is a dead giveaway.

    Seriously - Oz ought to be ashamed of sensationalizing RK (IMHO, the evidence is underwhelming) AND giving this woman an utterly undeserved marketing boost. She's just one of many supplement hustlers profiting off the naivete of consumers.

  23. These kind of TV shows that feed inaccurate medical or nutritional information should be forbidden. What do the professionals regulatory boards do towards these kind of actions? Any health professional that continuous feed inaccurate information to the public or their patients should be forbidden to practice. This should be looked as malpractice.

  24. In all fairness, he does actually say that this isn't a miracle pill and that it should only be used as a supplement to a correct diet and exercise. If people simply go out and buy this product without exercising then they shouldn't expect miracles.

  25. There are a few comments here suggesting that people ought to take Oz's comments with a "grain of salt", or they should pay more attention to caveat he usually provides and so on.

    The problem is that when it comes to supplements that "provide" effortless weight loss, people tend to have selective hearing - they hear what they want to hear. Especially when it comes from a "respected"
    figure like the Oprah-endorsed Oz. So they hear "amazing" when Oz uses the term, but they completely dismiss the caveat, which sounds suspisciously like a CYA statement, since it usually runs entirely contrary to the show's message.

    Oz MUST know this.

    Nonetheless, it obvious Dr. Oz has zero credibility - if he
    actually did do any research on RK he'd know the little human
    based data shows minimal results, with the bulk of the research
    performed on animals. Plus, his guest's comments are anecdotal,
    plus she has a financial conflict of interest.

    It makes your head spin!

  26. Anonymous5:01 pm

    Listen to him and you'll have everything know to man!!

  27. Anonymous6:30 am

    I dont see anyone commenting here who has actually tested the product him/herself..................