Y’all know I adore Dr. Oz.
Y’all also know that I despise supplements.
So… imagine how cringeworthy it was for me to view Dr. Oz being grilled by Congress about the inclusion of weight loss supplements on his show.
Yeah, now multiply it by four. It was that bad.
I have a few thoughts about this, though:
1) I believe in what Dr. Oz attempts to do with his show. So much of the content is all about connecting people to their health and helping them better understand their bodies in ways they can’t et elsewhere. Our times with our primary care physicians are always cut short – it’sjust enough time for them to make sure they don’t see anything “wrong” with us, never enough time to ask them to help you understand. I appreciate Oz for attempting to fill that void. Whether or not he does that in your eyes will be totally based on what he does for you, but even though I’ve outgrown most of the content on his show, I also know that many of my clients hear much of that information for the first time… stuff they would’ve never thought to ask about.
2) I think Senator McCaskill is right, and I think many of us agree: the constant quarterly announcements of a new herb or spice or plant or berry that will “bust your fat for good” does cheapen all the great work Oz does on the show… and that’s only compounded by hearing him say, on the Hill, that he wouldn’t argue whether they’d “pass FDA muster.” That phrase is so loaded, primarily because of the inability of the FDA to do any actual testing, that it only complicates understanding why the inclusion of “magical” supplements in the show is necessary at all.
3) I think there’s also something else worth mentioning, here. As much as I hate to say this, but we can’t forget how suspect the supplement industry is. So many times, tests have been run on supplements only to find that the promoted herb or extract on the bottle is nowhere to be found in the bottle at all, meaning that people are buying a mere placebo and not whatever glorified herb they originally thought they were getting. We’d never really know whether or not the promoted herbs or extracts work because so few supplements are legitimately honest about their production, manufacturing, and contents.
4) There’s an interesting dichotomy in listening to Oz talk about the green coffee bean extract, using its clinical trials as a defense of his promoting the product, and his later answering the question of “Do you believe there is a miracle drug out there?” with “There’s not a pill that’s going to help you, long term, lose weight and live your best life without diet and exercise.” He posits these pills as if they’re helpers that can boost you along your weight loss journey, but the fact of the matter is, they often send you further backwards than you would’ve gone had you simply “cheated on your diet” or “skipped a day at the gym:”
The diet world has a new golden child: green coffee extract.
A “miracle fat burner!” “One of the most important discoveries made” in weight loss science, the heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz about the little pills — which are produced by grinding up raw, unroasted coffee, and then soaking the result in alcohol to pull out the antioxidants.
But alas, the history of dieting is littered with failed concoctions and potions. And now, a study in mice casts doubts on green coffee’s weight-loss benefits — and even offers some preliminary evidence that it could be harmful.
The main ingredient in green coffee extract — an antioxidant called — didn’t help obese mice shed the pounds over a 12-week period, scientists at the University of Western Australia in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Instead, the compound gave the little rodents the early symptoms of diabetes: The animals were less sensitive to insulin and had higher blood-sugar levels between meals, compared with their overweight comrades who didn’t get the antioxidant.
Of course, mice aren’t people. And such experiments don’t prove that green coffee extract isn’t safe. But even in people, the evidence that the supplement melts off pounds is, well, slim. [source]
So many people are already exhibiting symptoms of metabolic syndrome – high blood pressure, decreased sensitivity to insulin (read: diabetes), heart disease – that to hear that these supplements could potentially worsen one of the three? How many people, taking these pills, experienced weird and unexpected side effects and, presuming the supplements are completely healthy, never bothered to mention them to their doctor as a potential cause? How many doctors – presuming supplements are healthy because, hey, they’re supplements – neglected to tell a patient to stop taking the pills because of that health halo that surrounds supplements?
How many medications have these supplements negatively affected in a patient’s body? How many adverse side effects have they caused?
5) In response to talking about the provability of the success of these supplements, Oz replies… “When people come into the hospital and say they’ve been healed by prayer, I can’t prove that. [Like prayer is about hope,’ My show is about hope.” The link in the article I quoted above from NPR said that the supplement runs about $30 per day.
What the hell kind of hope is that?
I can’t afford that kind of hope. At $900+ per month? I’d be a hopeless piece of work.
All jokes aside, I think it says something particularly awful about our state of affairs when the way we discuss weight loss and fitness in a national scale is about “hope,” and that “hope” requires the ability to afford an expensive supplementation habit. I also think we all should ask ourselves, “Do I need to buy a supplement for something that I know can be effectively managed through monitoring my food intake and exercise, without these pills?” Oftentimes, the answer is yes.
6) Senator McCaskill went in for the kill several times, here:
“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles.’ When you call a product a miracle, and it’s something you can buy, and it’s something that gives people false hope, I don’t understand why you need to go there.”
…to which, he replied:
“In an attempt to engage viewers, I use flowery language, I use language that was very passionate…”
Something about this made me so, so sad. Oz is still a respected surgeon, no doubt, but he’s also at odds with his own community over needing to promote his show with weight loss supplements. That’s what this sentence boils down to – in response to being told his colleagues are against him, he talks about how he has to use “flowery” language to describe weight loss supplements, presumably to attract and maintain viewers.
7) There is one last quote that I want to share, that was cut off from the clip above:
“Do you believe there’s a magical pill out there?”
“There’s not a pill that’s going to help you, long term, lose weight and live your best life without diet and exercise.”
“Do you believe there’s a magic weight loss cure out there?”
“If you’re selling something because it’s magical, then no.”
Please… trust me. Even if there is a supplement out there that can help with weight loss, you don’t want it. So much of weight loss is tied up in hormonal causes and effects, that to use a supplement to try to speed you along could actually cause more harm than good. It could even force you to rebound faster than you would not believe.
What do you think about this mess? You can view the entire session on the C-SPAN website here. Have you tried something Dr. Oz suggested and been burned by it? What happened?