Media Turn Against Former Darling Mehmet Oz After Senate Hearing on Shady Supplements

The higher the media build up celebrities, the more dramatic the fall. Skeptics never liked  Mehmet Oz of the Dr. Oz Show, a cardiothoracic surgeon catapulted to fame by Oprah Winfrey. But a recent flurry of scathing reports was precipitated not by skeptical journalists but by the U.S. Senate. A hearing Tuesday focused on supplements that promise weight loss – products variously touted by Dr. Oz as “miracles” or “magic in a bottle.”

Many headlines used the term “scolded” to describe the line of questioning from Sen. Claire McCaskill, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance. But from the video clips, it looks like Gawker captured the scene better with Senate Panel Rips Dr. Oz a New One.

Oz attempted to defend himself by saying he believes in the supplements he promotes and his only crime was using “flowery” language. He said he’s recommended the supplement to members of his own family – though he didn’t say whether these were family members he liked.

The CNN story, Senators grill Dr. Oz about ‘miracle’ weight loss claims, described how so-called green coffee extract exploded after Oz touted it on his show as a way to burn fat. Does it work? Here’s what the story says:

A small study published in 2012 found chlorogenic acid, the main ingredient in green coffee beans, helped 16 human participants lose, on average, 18 pounds over 22 weeks. But another study on chlorogenic acid in mice found that the acid did not help mice lose weight and in fact, increased their insulin resistance.

In other words, we don’t know.

The Slate story, Sen Claire McCaskill Dissects Dr. Oz,  explained why this hearing is about more than just celebrity gossip.

Last year Americans spent about $2.4 billion on weight loss products, and according to the Federal Trade Commission, it is the most common source of consumer fraud, with 7.6 million cases in 2011, the most recent year for which numbers were available.

The most complete story came from Dr. Oz Senate Scolding: His 10 Most Controversial Weight Loss Supplements. The story gives a helpful list of Oz-generated claims.

1. Forskolin: In the hearings, McCaskill brings up Forskulin, reminding Oz that he called it “lightning in a bottle” and “a miracle flower” in an episode of his show this past January.

What it really is: A chemical found in the roots of the plant Plectranthus Barbatus that’s been used in traditional medicine to treat high blood pressure and heart disorders.

2. FBCx: Oz counters McCaskill with a defense of FBCx, “which is basically a fiber and we know that fiber when taken correctly is a very effective weight loss tool.”

What it really is: A type of fiber called alpha-cyclodextrin that’s been used to lower cholesterol and bind triglycerides. The term FBCx is an abbreviation for “Fat Binding Complexer” and is basically just a branding term.

3. Raspberry Ketones: Dr. Oz has called it: “A number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat.”

What it really is: A compound derived from red raspberries that may help regulate adiponectin, a protein that affects metabolism.

4. Yakon Syrup: Dr. Oz has termed  it “a metabolism game-changer.”

What it really is: A syrup extracted from the root of the South American plant Smallanthus sonchifolius that can be used as a lower calorie alternative to sugar.

5. Saffron Extract: Dr. Oz touts this “miracle appetite suppressant” for its ability to banish cravings.

What it really is: A spice culled from the plant Saffron crocus, used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking.

And 5 More: Other weight loss “miracles” touted by Dr. Oz include Sea Buckthorn, Capsiberry, Garcinia Cambogia, African Mango Seed, and Green Coffee Bean extract. In fact, it’s Green Coffee Bean extract that got Dr. Oz into trouble in the first place.

Other coverage:

New York Daily News: Oz defends Miracle Products before Panel of Senators Who Call them a Sham

Reuters: Senate Panel Scolds TV’s Dr. Oz over Diet Claims               

Kansas City Star:

Although Americans spend $2.4 billion a year on weight loss products and services, there is little scientific proof that pills and supplements can melt pounds off and keep them off without long-term diet and lifestyle changes, she said.

Uh Oh. It’s that problematic word “proof” – one of those highly misused terms as noted recently by io9. Here the word “evidence” would be much better. Science isn’t likely to “prove” that these supplements work or not, but it can give us a pretty good idea.

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