Another irony meter blown: Dr. Oz to testify in front of the Senate's Consumer Protection panel about weight loss scams

I've never made it much of a secret that I don't much like "America's doctor," Dr. Mehmet Oz. Just enter his name into the search box of this blog, and you'll find quite a few posts in which I deconstruct some bit of quackery that Dr. Oz has promoted on his show, be it his promotion of faith healing and even psychic medium quackery from the likes of John Edward and Theresa Caputo (a.k.a. the Long Island Medium, who was—surprise! surprise!—recently reported to be a fraud); his fear mongering over the non-existent link between cell phone radiation and cancer; regular promotional visits by über-quack Joe Mercola; recommending homeopathy as a cure all; and even taking seriously one of the quackiest quacks on the Internet, New World Order conspiracy theorist, former Y2K scammer, and self-styled scientist, the "Health Ranger" Mike Adams, who seems not to understand that things look very different under the microscope. It's not for nothing that I've characterized Dr. Oz not as "America's doctor," but rather "America's quack." It's a characterization that he has more than earned, given his utter abdication of professional responsibility.

Heck, he's even piled onto the dubious "gluten-free" craze with today's show.

If there's one thing that Dr. Oz is probably most known for, if there's one scam that Dr. Oz most frequently features on his show, it's weight loss scams. Most hilariously, recently, Oz went all "under cover," as though he thought he were Morly Safer and Dan Rather on the 60 Minutes of old (back before Lara Logan, of course), showing up at the office of a ne'er-do-well to confront him in his lair with evidence of his perfidy. It's the ne'er-do-well he confronted that blew my irony meter. Specifically, it was manufacturers of a supplement, Garcinia Gambogia, which a company had claimed to be endorsed by Dr. Oz. While it's true that Dr. Oz never endorsed the specific brand of Garcinia Gambogia that the company sold, it's not hard to figure out where companies get the idea that Dr. Oz recommends Garcinia Gambogia as a weight loss miracle, given that Dr. Oz's selling of the supplement was described thusly:

As people were getting ready for the holiday season and its accompanying waist expansion late last year, Dr. Mehmet Oz let viewers of his TV show in on a timely little secret. “Everybody wants to know what’s the newest, fastest fat buster,” said the board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon and one of People magazine’s sexiest men alive. “How can I burn fat without spending every waking moment exercising and dieting?”

He then told his audience about a “breakthrough,” “magic,” “holy grail,” even “revolutionary” new fat buster. “I want you to write it down,” America’s doctor urged his audience with a serious and trustworthy stare. After carefully wrapping his lips around the exotic words “Garcinia cambogia,” he added, sternly: “It may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”

Then there was the "green coffee bean" incident, in which Dr. Oz, in his eagerness to promote green coffee bean extract as yet another "miracle" weight loss supplement, conducted what was in essence a small unethical clinical trial and touted the results of a company-run clinical trial that did not show nearly as strongly what he claimed it showed. This bogus trial is still featured on Dr. Oz's website as The Green Coffee Bean Project.

Given his promotion of various supplements and quack diets, Dr. Oz is arguably the most famous promoter of diet scams in the United States, which is why Steve Salzberg owes me a new keyboard, as I was drinking my coffee when I read this press release from Senator Claire McCaskill that he forwarded to me:

WASHINGTON - As millions of Americans fall prey each year to weight-loss diet scams, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill-who chairs the Senate's Consumer Protection panel-will lead a hearing next Tuesday with testimony from Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of the Dr. Oz Show, to examine deceptive advertising of weight-loss products and to determine what more can be done to protect consumers.

McCaskill's hearing follows recent enforcement actions against companies engaged in deceptive advertising of weight-loss products. Last month the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it is suing the Florida-based company, Pure Green Coffee, alleging that it capitalized on the green coffee bean diet fad by using bogus weight-loss claims and fake news websites to market its dietary supplement. The FTC claimed that weeks after green coffee was promoted on the Dr. Oz Show, Pure Green Coffee began selling their Pure Green Coffee extract, charging $50 for a one-month supply.

Additionally, the FTC in January announced $34 million in settlements against marketers of fraudulent weight-loss products who deceived consumers with baseless claims. And the FTC issued updated guidance for publishers and broadcasters on how to spot phony weight-loss claims when screening ads for publication.

McCaskill's hearing in the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection will take place at 10:00 a.m. ET on Tuesday, June 17.

Watch the hearing live next Wednesday, HERE.

With all due respect, Sen. McCaskill owes me a new irony meter. She fried that sucker flat, leaving nothing but a sputtering, sizzling, bubbling blob of qoo with a few copper wires sticking out of it. Dr. Oz testifying about weight loss scams? That's like asking Al Capone to testify about U.S. tax policy or Stanislaw Burzynski about clinical trial design and ethics. Seriously. The only thing useful that having Dr. Oz testify in front of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection would be to use him as an example of weight loss scams being promoted to millions of people every day through irresponsible television shows.

I mean, seriously. Think about it. McCaskill is touting the FTC's crackdown on companies selling green coffee bean extract and advertising it with bogus weight loss claims while at the same time respectfully listening to the one person most responsible for fanning the flames of the "green coffee bean craze" to reach new heights of burning stupid. She's featuring Dr. Oz as though he were an expert at anything other than selling such scams to credulous viewers while disingenuously claiming to be the aggrieved party when companies understandably start using his breathless quotes about various weight loss supplements to hawk their products and even going so far as to brag about the team of enforcers he's assembled to go after such companies.

You know, I'm half tempted to...aw, screw it! Let's do it. Later in her press release Sen. McCaskill announces:

Last year, McCaskill launched an effort encouraging consumers to use an online tool on her website that allows individuals to report scams and fraud they encounter in advertising and sales. The "Submit Your Scam" button at www.McCaskill.senate.gov allows constituents to submit personal stories and tips to help McCaskill crack down on scams and protect consumers. McCaskill has also specifically called on Missourians to use the site to share their personal experiences with deceptive weight-loss scams.

It's tempting to suggest that you do just that and take advantage of Sen. McCaskill's "Submit your scam" button, particularly if you are one of McCaskill's constituents. Report Dr. Oz for the weight loss scams he's promoted on his television show and website, such as Garcinia Gambogia and "belly blasters in a bottle," among the countless others, such as Oz's most recent diet claims for forskolin. (I'm having acid flashbacks to my graduate school days and using forskolin in cell cultures.)

The sad thing is that diet supplement scams are real. There are a lot of them out there, and there are lots of people who could speak about them. Having Dr. Oz testify is nothing more than a publicity stunt that will taint the hearings with the stench of hypocrisy. It is a stench that can't be removed.

Categories

More like this

I almost feel sorry for "America's Quack," Dr. Mehmet Oz. Well, not really. Remember last week when I took note of an upcoming Senate hearing, specifically a hearing on weight loss scams in front of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance, which is chaired by Senator…
If there's one aspect of 2014 that I enjoyed, it's that it was a very bad year for our old friend, America's quack, a.k.a. Dr. Mehmet Oz. It seemed that, finally, some of the chickens were coming home to roost and Dr. Oz was starting to suffer a bit for his promotion of quackery and…
I've often written of "black holes of stupid" that threaten to rupture the fabric of the space-time continuum, so dense and full of stupid are they. Such black holes tend to come from places like the wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery known as Age of Autism, the wretched hive of scum…
That Dr. Mehmet Oz uses his show to promote quackery of the vilest sort is no longer in any doubt. I was reminded yet again of this last week when I caught a rerun of one of his shows from earlier this season, when he gazed in wonder at the tired old cold reading schtick used by all "psychic…

Unfortunately, if is wasn't Dr. Oz quacking it would be someone else. Comprehending science is a difficult task for many people and the path of least resistance is to believe the supernatural. All too many charlatans are willing to take advantage of people's unwillingness (or inability) to call B.S. on quackery. The temptation to turn to the Dark Side for a small percentage of 'experts' is too great for some. Dr. Oz is surely more financially secure than if he sold books about the science of weight loss. As a climate scientist, I could probably have some financial security if I sold my soul to the Devil and became a paid climate change skeptic. However, I would have a difficult time looking at myself in the mirror if I did that. Too bad Dr. Oz, and his ilk, don't face that same moral dilemma.

Unfortunately, if is wasn't Dr. Oz quacking it would be someone else. Comprehending science is a difficult task for many people and the path of least resistance is to believe the supernatural. All too many charlatans are willing to take advantage of people's unwillingness (or inability) to call B.S. on quackery. The temptation to turn to the Dark Side for a small percentage of 'experts' is too great for some. Dr. Oz is surely more financially secure than if he sold books about the science of weight loss. As a climate scientist, I could probably have some financial security if I sold my soul to the Devil and became a paid climate change skeptic. However, I would have a difficult time looking at myself in the mirror if I did that. Too bad Dr. Oz, and his ilk, don't face that same moral dilemma.

Unfortunately, if is wasn't Dr. Oz quacking it would be someone else. Comprehending science is a difficult task for many people and the path of least resistance is to believe the supernatural. All too many charlatans are willing to take advantage of people's unwillingness (or inability) to call B.S. on quackery. The temptation to turn to the Dark Side for a small percentage of 'experts' is too great for some. Dr. Oz is surely more financially secure than if he sold books about the science of weight loss. As a climate scientist, I could probably have some financial security if I sold my soul to the Devil and became a paid climate change skeptic. However, I would have a difficult time looking at myself in the mirror if I did that. Too bad Dr. Oz, and his ilk, don't face that same moral dilemma.

Sorry for the repeat posts. My $#%! computer kept saying that the comment submission failed. Guess it was wrong.

DAFUQ?

That's one of the most asinine things I've read yet today.

Dr. Oz as someone reputable?

Really?

It would be very fitting for that Submit Scam form to get a bunch of Dr. Oz submissions today - today is his birthday!

The press release says witnesses for this hearing are being finalized. Have you contacted the CFI-DC office to see if maybe they have some pull with the Senator's office? Maybe we could get a skeptical witness added to the list.

By Tim Farley (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

Odd. When you identify a conservative who pushes quackery it is because all Republicans are anti-science. When a liberal pushes quackery there is none of that anti-science rhetoric.

The press release says witnesses for this hearing are being finalized. Have you contacted the CFI-DC office to see if maybe they have some pull with the Senator’s office? Maybe we could get a skeptical witness added to the list.

No, I hadn't, but that's not a bad idea.

Odd. When you identify a conservative who pushes quackery it is because all Republicans are anti-science. When a liberal pushes quackery there is none of that anti-science rhetoric.

Except that McCaskill isn't pushing quackery. She's actually doing something good in trying to call attention to weight loss scams. She's just made a big mistake inviting Dr. Oz as being a pro-science advocate. The problem is that she appears to have been blinded by Dr. Oz's celebrity and doesn't recognize that his pushing of weight loss quackery is part of the very problem her hearing is meant to combat. He's not part of the solution; that's for sure.

"The sad thing is that diet supplement scams are real".

I occasionally go to a supplement store** to pick up stuff for one of my gentlemen who has a slight inclination towards this woo:
I notice that the in-store advertising material ( large cut outs and signs) seems to focus on either weight loss or on building muscles-
actually the back half of the store is taken up by various protein products aimed at men/ boys trying to bulk up and sports "fuels" to bolster their workouts..

Hilariously, one of the products touted for its amazing weight loss abilities ( an exotic fruit eaten by thin exotic native folk from the South Pacific or South America) appears to be loaded with caffeine. Similarly, a green tea product, with its miraculous EGCG contains a good 50mg dose of 'naturally occuring caffeine'.

Aren't most of us *already* doing that?
Although I'll admit that it's harder to do so with tea alone, but I do manage.

** and to a health food store to spy on the latest food woo.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

Are you sure he is being called as a pro science witness? Perhaps she intends to grill him? Haul him over the coals. Drag him out on the carpet, make him sweat.....

By Captian_a (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

@ Denice on #10

It's been said that the Internet runs on caffeine, rather than cats.

It is by Caffeine alone I set my mind in motion
It is by the Beans of Java that thought acquires speed,
the hands acquire shaking,
the shaking is a warning.
It is by Caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.

I just know I get cranky when the blood levels get too high in my caffeine supply.

We now return you to actually on-topic commentary.

Are you sure he is being called as a pro science witness? Perhaps she intends to grill him? Haul him over the coals. Drag him out on the carpet, make him sweat…..

Come on, you don't really think that was her intent in inviting him as one of the people to testify, do you? However, you do give me an idea. Here's the roster of members of the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance:

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=ConsumerProtectionPro…

If any of the senators listed is your senator, contact them about this, explain how Dr. Oz is part of the problem, and urge them to ask pointed questions.

@ Mike

We now return you to actually on-topic commentary.

The interlude was appreciated.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

The good news is that one of my Senators is on this subcommittee. The bad news is that it's the worse-than-useless Kelly Ayotte. Based on her track record with Benghazi, I question whether she would be able to investigate her way out of a paper bag, much less ask pointed questions of a mainstream media figure like Dr. Oz.

I can understand McCaskill not realizing what she is about to unleash. Dr. Oz really is a celebrity, and as past Orac posts have noted, there was a time when he was one of the good guys (he went over to the dark side a decade or so ago). But senators have staff who are paid to do this kind of homework, and McCaskill's staff didn't.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

I'm sure she did it to try to make sure that the committee meeting scores some news attention on prime time news shows and decent placement in major newspapers.

The bad news is that it’s the worse-than-useless Kelly Ayotte. Based on her track record with Benghazi, I question whether she would be able to investigate her way out of a paper bag, much less ask pointed questions of a mainstream media figure like Dr. Oz.

Let's not forget her credulity with respect to Stanislaw Burzynski:

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/01/22/stanislaw-burzynski-and-th…

http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2014/03/24/stanislaw-burzynski-and-th…

Captain_a @11 beat me to it.

Orac @13 - you're probably right, but one can hope, right?

And if Orac is right, can Dr Oz testify at all? Wouldn't it fall under the 5th admendment?

My senator (Cory Booker) is on this committee. Booker's staff now has the link to this article. I can only hope that they read it in time.

When Inhofe calls Michael Crichton (who is neither a scientist NOR an expert) to testify before Climate hearings, I get that. But this makes no sense. McCaskill isn't trying to secretly promote weight loss scams.

It's embarrassing.

By Physicist-retired (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

Because I got in early today:

I took a look at the usual suspects' (tm) websites' stores to see what they had to offer:

-Mike has a product developed by his chiro BFf, Ed Group, called ' Slimirex' which contains ( amongst other things) gymnema, green coffee, damiana, kelp and hoodia gordonii.
He also stocks various superfoods, ingredients for smoothies and protein powders.
- Gary sells garcinia
as well as myriad powdered greens, reds, proteins, fibre- you name it, he has it powdered.
- Joe doesn't list any obvious weight loss products but sells the usual protein powders.

HOWEVER these dudes promote extreme lifestyle regimes that emphasise being thin through articles, broadcasts, books and videos.

They lionise veganism, raw food, low fat, gluten free, paleo and other difficult to obtain and maintain diets
as well as prescribing frequent, high intensity aerobic activities - e.g. one hour per day aerobic and 3 hours a week weights.

I think that the emphasis on Superfoods (tm) and Smoothies (tm) are methods to get people to obsess about every thing that they ingest and avoid normal eating.

How far removed is product-centred Orthorexia from eating disorders based on weight loss anyway?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

Mike has a product developed by his chiro BFf, Ed Group, called ‘ Slimirex’

"Slimy-rex"? Kudos to the marketing department.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

Slimey entrepreneurs, slimey products.

I guess they don't get that whole spelling pattern/ pronunciation thing-y.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

"Irony meter." 24 comments. Zzzzzzzz. Stanislaw Burzynski? Crickets. Time for a new schtick. The world is passing you by.

By Sid Offit (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

The world is passing you by.

Hey, Bob, when are your imaginary child-rearing books due out? Were they turned down by your imaginary publishing company?

Oh, and Bob, what would you say is the most original post on your FB page in, say, the past week?

Because you're kind of totally fυcked if one compares with your own "blog."

Sorry, but I really don't have a lot of sympathy for people who fall for weight loss scams--Some sympathy, just not a lot. But I do loathe Oz so will go hit the button.

@ offit

Why do people like you go on about your "research" (I looked at your goofy blog) when you have no idea how such is conducted? I hope your kid only gets a "mild" case of polio when she gets unwittingly exposed.

Pretty funny. I read a story about "bio-identical hormones" once which quoted Dr. Oz. Apparently, for his patients who choose HRT, he always prescribes bio-identical preparations. With all due respect to our blog host, a surgeon patiently discussing the pluses and minuses of menopause therapies? Not in my world.

By Stella B. (not verified) on 11 Jun 2014 #permalink

What is this "America's Doctor" stuff? How did he get crowned with that title?
I see his puss all over the magazine covers when I go grocery shopping. More like "America's Fame Whore".

This is typical McCaskill grandstanding, don't for a minute think she isn't. Her calling on Missourian's is a calculated political move because she knows so many people buy the Dr. Oz hype. Her desires are to make the most noise in D.C. in the hopes she doesn't get voted out and eventually can be seen as popular as Dick Gebhardt was...which in itself was pathetic.

#20, Physicist-retired: If I am not mistaken, Mr. Booker is also Dr. Oz's senator. Hope that doesn't influence how pointed any questions he may have of the good doc be.

It has always disgusted me that someone who spent so many years developing the skills to preform cardio thoracic surgery
Has become A snake oil salesman. The Hippccratic oath states
do no harm. It all comes down to money and fame both highly
addictive.

As a Registered Dietitian and a #McCaskill constituent I have just sent her an e-mail questioning this decision. Thanks for the article

By Connie Diekman (not verified) on 12 Jun 2014 #permalink

Maybe u should send ur column to the Senator if u haven't already. The true expert on weight scams is David Heber, MD, a professor of medicine & director of the obesity & nutrition center at UCLA. U could suggest him as a real expert to the Senator.

What is this “America’s Doctor” stuff? How did he get crowned with that title?

He was knighted by Oprah, natch.

"Oprah Winfrey first referred to Mehmet Oz as “America’s doctor” in 2004, during one of his earliest appearances on her television show. The label stuck."

Dean Edell must be pissed.

Hurrah! My senator (Boxer) is on the list, so I wrote to her and McKaskill. It probably won't make any difference, but one more drop in the bucket can't hurt. Thanks for keeping me updated on the Wizard of Oz's travesties. I can't watch him; it makes my head ache.

By cloudskimmer (not verified) on 12 Jun 2014 #permalink

Duh, hello, have you not seen latest commercials for his newest show plugging NYMed? Of course it's a publicity stunt!
P.S. Wasn't Oprah responsible for his ascent? Just sayin'

By Evil Marketer (not verified) on 12 Jun 2014 #permalink

Unfortunately, far too many Americans actually believe what they see on TV.

Letter sent to Senator Boxer. I hope they pay attention.

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 13 Jun 2014 #permalink

Today he pitches Ayurvedic medicine.

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 13 Jun 2014 #permalink

@Keith - damn, a politician that actually did her job.....

Either that, or the negative publicity in the blogosphere and by pundits lead McCaskill to change her strategy. One thing that makes me think it's the latter is that Dr. Oz probably wouldn't have agreed to appear if he suspected that he would be ambushed this way. He's a publicity hound, but not so much that he'd willingly agree to testify if he knew he was going to get such a tongue lashing in public and (likely) shots of him on the evening news looking uncomfortable. Quite frankly, I don't care whether McCaskill planned it all along or whether she was embarrassed into changing strategy. Oz got burned, and that's always a good thing.

In any case, I can't wait to check out the actual video.

I tried to write in requesting a response from Dr. Oz regarding these weight loss scams. Everytime I turned around he was endorsing a different product, promising phenomenal weight loss. He never answered, and his staff banned me from ANY RESPONSE regarding his products. They did not want any negative responses regarding his endorsements. I was UNABLE to say anthing regarding his products again. That was proof to me, that their patient reviews were set up, to aid the doctor in bringing in millions of dollars in endorsement payoffs. The poor patients were left holding the bag ... no weight loss ... and out their money. He should be relieved of his medical license. Real physicians "DO NO HARM."

By Judy Crocker (not verified) on 17 Jun 2014 #permalink

It's nice to see a Congress critter doing the right but hard thing once in a while. I really figured it was just going to be pure softball questions and some fawning for the camera. Well done indeed.

By Uselesstwit (not verified) on 17 Jun 2014 #permalink

Well, Mikey does not approve:
it was "Orwellian" involving "thought crimes" conducted by the"police state".
( @ Natural News today)
Now, Oz seems to be his BFF - much lauded and applauded. Ms Mc Caskill, not so much ( see joke caption under her photo).

Mike thinks that legislators should investigate vaccines instead.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 17 Jun 2014 #permalink

It looks like Senator McCaskill could have twisted the knife a bit more thoroughly (figuratively speaking, of course), but this is definitely the kind of thing I like to see, and want to see more of.

So I'm going to encourage it. Good on ya, Senator McCaskill, and keep doing more of this kind of thing!

By Composer99 (not verified) on 17 Jun 2014 #permalink

Why isn't the Senate addressing his claim about American chicken being processed in China? Who gives a cracks a** about weight loss supplements... As a consumer you have to use your common sense, Dr. Oz is not putting a gun to anyone's head.

I called it. @#11

By Captian_a (not verified) on 18 Jun 2014 #permalink

Although I do not support weight loss scams, I find it ironic that he is being questioned about his tactics in helping people lose weight by the very people who oversee our food industry, which is really what is making everyone fat. Senator McCaskill wants fraud claims? look at her own branches of government

@heali - please provide examples to support your statement. Thanks.

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 30 Jun 2014 #permalink

I find it ironic that he is being questioned about his tactics in helping people lose weight by the very people who oversee our food industry, which is really what is making everyone fat.

The Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance oversees the food industry?

@Captian_a --

Way to go!

@Narad --

That would probably be some subcommittee of Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions might have something to say about the nation's fatness, though, I guess.

Details.