Home Debunking The Myths Dr. Oz Called to Congress to Explain “Magical” Weight Loss Pills

Dr. Oz Called to Congress to Explain “Magical” Weight Loss Pills

by Erika Nicole Kendall

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.

Mehmet Oz

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.”

Ow.

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?

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9 comments

Pam June 25, 2014 - 11:12 AM

I was sad for this as well after seeing a news story on it the other day. I like Dr. Oz and have long realized that the supplements that are touted on his show are for ratings only. Many people are and have (including myself on many occasions) sought the proverbial “magic bullet” to aid in the loss of unwanted poundage. Because I like him and respect his craft, it is disheartening to know that his use of “flowery language” in an effort to promote his show has caused many people to waste a lot of money in this crappy economy. It makes me not want to trust what he says. The best advice to anyone, besides exercise and eat right (clean), is to believe half of what you hear and research everything.

Annette June 25, 2014 - 12:24 PM

It’s sad to say that Dr OZ’s show has fallen into the creating new ways to lose weight to keep the show on the air. Most of what he is promoting is on the web. Last season they were going to cancel the show it was that close.

As for me vitamin supplements are helping to sustain and help heal certain conditions. Vitamin supplements are concentrated to help the body heal deficiencies. My body need the concentrated amount along with a certain lifestyle that promote healing. Everyone needs to decide for themselves. Gone are the days that you just go to a doctor and take a doctors whatever he says as gospel. Be aware of you body, that is what I like about Yoga.

Also there are doctors that promote healing instead of where it is about healing instead of a pill to take. I feel it’s a little more complicated that than. Most of it is lifestyle and caring for ourselves. Losing weight is a by product but it’s really about loving and caring for yourself.

April June 25, 2014 - 7:33 PM

Hmm? Well, I use to watch Dr. Oz religiously. I’d often have a laugh with my family about how obessed I was because watching could help me save my life or something that could make me live to 100. I never really bought into pill popping aspect of the show becuase from experience exercise and diet trumps all supplements. I did like learning about teas and superfoods. And so, I stopped watching about a year ago because his show became so cheesy;I just got bored with it.Needless to say, I am glad he was grilled because a lot of those supplements companies are scam artist preying on desparate people. Only because he’s such a voice for the supplement industry, Dr. Oz deserved this public grilling. People love Dr.Oz. I love ’em, but they read him for flith. We live in a world of supplement junkies.

Kelly June 26, 2014 - 2:13 PM

I’m glad vitamins have been brought up, though they’re not weight loss bullets. I’ve recently statrted a resistance training program and read that a multivitamin is recommended. I’m not yet a clean eater, though I don’t processed food most of the time, and since Feb I’ve been much more mindful of what kind of starches I’m eating.
Question: are multivitamins necessary?

Erika Nicole Kendall June 27, 2014 - 11:17 AM

There is virtually nothing you can get in a multivitamin that you can’t get in fresh produce and quality sources of animal protein.

Vegans might need them, and some with blood/hormonal conditions might require high dosages of certain combinations, but for the average person? My first instinct says no.

As one of my favorite RDs says, “Food FIRST, THEN supplement.”

Kelly June 27, 2014 - 4:59 PM

Thank you. I only take vitamins when I’m preggers … and I think lifting weights is like pregnancy — sore and tired! And never mind “push” when on a machine 🙂
Thank you. This site is a blessing for me. Kelly

Chi July 2, 2014 - 11:41 PM

I couldn’t agree with you more. Most people take supplements because 1) they believe it will make them healthier and 2) to counteract the guilt of eating a less than healthy diet.

Supplements to me are worthless (besides the few exceptions you gave) and many so called vitamins and minerals in supplements are in fact, unrecognizable from the real vitamins and minerals they are suppose to imitate. Look up what is truly in these lucrative “pills”.

However, the biggest reason that I don’t take supplements is because natural foods have hundred of thousands of beneficial compounds that do not make it to a nutrition label, which is why you cannot survive off a pill and water. Don’t waste your money on miracle pills, but rather, channel it towards natural, unprocessed food and make it from scratch. If you need Vitamin C to ward off a cold, eat an orange.

Amanda June 27, 2014 - 8:32 AM

As a nurse, I really respected what Dr. Oz did when he first started. In a short amount of time, I’ve across way too many patients who do not understand the illnesses they have and the effects of it on their bodies. Dr. Oz does a great job of breaking down body processes and illnesses so that everyone can understand them and know how to take action agains it. But now, whenever I flip past his show there is always some “miracle” pill for weight loss and burning fat. It has become harder to respect him as a medical professional on television because it seems all he does now is capitalize on the fear of fat and deceives people into thinking that taking a supplement is going to cure them. It’s been a long time coming that he is questioned on his support of the supplement industry.

Tasha Wright July 1, 2014 - 1:57 AM

It can’t be 100% true. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

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