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Hi, everybody, welcome to Maintenance Fees, your favorite podcast about health and wellness myths and the human version of Oscar the Grouch, maybe.
I think your favorite might be a little ambitious. I think we're a middling podcast and OK podcast.
Sometimes it's fun. If there's lots of dishes, it's OK. It'll do. We're the green bean casserole.
My name's Aubrey Gordon and I am a writer and fat lady about town. And I am Michael Hobbs. I am a reporter for the Huffington Post.
You can find us on social media pretty much everywhere at maintenance phase. You can also find us on Patreon, which is patriae on dot com slash maintenance phase that is also linked on our website, which is maintenance Face.com. And you can also find t shirts. If you want some T-shirts, you can go get some T-shirts.
T shirts. Yes. Or you can not support us. That's fine, too. Yeah. Do what you want. Yes. And today we are talking about Dr. Oz.
No, Dr. Oz, Mr. Oz, America's doctor, America's sweetheart.
I mean, this is another one of those episodes where it's so hard to research because you're like, you know, he's trash. And then you read all the research and you're like, OK, he's like more trash than I thought and like trash in slightly different ways.
That seems right to me. If you like. The things that I know about Dr. Oz are just these peak moments of garbage nonsense, like I know about him being an Oprah, not disciple. What's the word that I'm looking for? A Frankenstein's monster.
So I know about him being sort of Oprah approved. I know about him like pretty consistently promoting fat camps and I know about him getting hauled in front of Congress.
Yes, we're going to talk about that in great detail. I feel like that's just from like moving through the world in which Dr. Oz exists. You know what I mean? I don't really feel like I know more than that.
I mean, I feel like the Aubrey version of I'm Coming In Fresh is like pretty well versed on this stuff compared to most of the general public. All right, fine. So, I mean, for listeners that don't know who he is, can you just give us the broad strokes? Who is this Dr. Oz, dude? Yeah.
So Dr. Mehmet Oz. Yeah. Yes. He was a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey's show, is my recollection.
He made fifty five appearances between 2001 and 2009, and that led to him getting a like an afternoon talk show where he would sort of like address medical topics and sometimes would take questions from the audience that were like, I have this rash. Yeah, yeah. I don't know how long it was on the air, but I have a sense that it was on the air for like ten years and it might still be on the air. And I don't know.
Yeah, it's still on Jesusita.
Yeah, they do. A hundred and seventy five shows a year. Oh. And he still does surgery like literal heart surgery one day a week every Thursday. Wow. Yeah.
The show is like consistently one of the top five shows like on the daytime charts just because we have to have a cameo by her every episode.
Now Michelle Obama has showed up on a show twice.
So later on we are going to talk about sort of how Dr. Oz got like this. But I think it's important to establish what like this actually means. There's basically four different categories of topics that he has on his show. So the first is weight loss and weight related diet, exercise stuff, which is by far the most like. That's probably 40 percent of his topics are in some way related to weight loss. One of them to pick a random example is apple cider vinegar that he says, like if you take a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with a meal, you'll, like, lose more weight than you would on other diets without it, blah, blah, blah.
And then, of course, you look into it and it's like there's one study and it's on mice like nineteen ninety two. And then like people try to debunk it. But then he just like leans in.
Like one thing he's doing now with apple cider vinegar is he stopped talking about it as like a diet aid. He started talking about it as, like a detox, like you should only drink vinegar.
Oh God. What. Which is worse. And then he starts now he's talking about it as skin care, an actual skin care people. Just because something is quote unquote natural doesn't mean that you should, like, rub it all over your face every morning. Right.
Apple cider vinegar is natural. It's also not a great contact lens solution. Yes, exactly. Like, oh, he's also really big on anticancer stuff.
One of the headlines that's on his website was What You Can Eat to Defeat Cancer. Good God. Another one of the major categories of stuff that he talks about and show it is anti aging. Yeah, there's also a fourth category of stuff. And so I'm about to send you a link.
Very excited. Oh, my God.
Oh, no, I know, Mike. I know it's so bad.
So this is apparently a title of an episode and it says From gay to straight questionmark, the controversial therapy.
He did an episode. On gay conversion therapy, like recently, yeah, so the the sort of little synopsis says, is there a gay cure? Dr. Oz investigates. Reparative therapy recently banned in California for minors. Experts on both sides speak out. Watch the heated debate so recently banned in California for minors means that this episode happened in the last five years.
Yes, we are not in the middle of a society wide debate about whether conversion therapy for gay people is useful. That is a closed debate.
We do not have questions about that as a society. We are not going to watch this segment together because it's a fucking nightmare. But it's like one of the most unethical six minutes of TV I've ever seen. He basically brings on a bunch of gay men talking about, like I had these urges and then I found gay conversion therapy and now I don't have them anymore. I'm just like, what are you fucking kidding me? Like, this is like Donahue episodes from the mid 90s.
Like, all this shit has been completely debunked, dude.
Right. I don't think you and I talk about this. This is a campaign that I worked for like years. I worked on the Oregon campaign to ban conversion therapy. It is a shit show. And so I will tell you, I know inside and out that there is zero dispute amongst psychologists and psychiatrists. Zero, it doesn't work. And even if it did, why would we do it?
I mean, I think this is important for understanding sort of the Dr. Oz phenomenon, because on some level, like some of the things on his show, you can defend. Right. Like helping people live longer, like diet and exercise, blah, blah, blah. Fine.
But then it's like every fifth or sixth segment is just random moral panic bullshit. So there's this infamous one where during the Ebola panic, which I think is twenty thirteen, he had a whole show about how it might go airborne at any time.
What was one of the ones that I found he had Jordan Peterson on to do divorce counseling with like a couple that was fighting. What you're just going to have, like, is random. All right. Fucking Google help people with like, oh, John works too much and he's never home anymore. Like, why does this exist?
I was laughing in anticipation of him being like, let's do the Carnivore diet. I know. And not like Jordan Peterson, marriage counselor. It's nuts.
He's had like Needham's on like one of the headlines that it's still up on his website is how talking to the Dead Can Keep You Healthy.
His website has a true crime section to randomly do these, like this girl went missing in Albuquerque or whatever.
And you're like, why the fuck are you talking about this? No, Healtheon got it.
I want to sort of spoil the ending. One of the best articles that I came across on Dr. Oz was written by a doctor like Doctors Loathe Dr. Oz.
It's an article called Why Dr. Oz? It's Crazy. And it's by a University of Chicago doctor called Adam Sifu. And he summarizes, I think, really well, just like the central problem, not just with Dr. Oz, with this entire genre of entertainment, they're with me.
It's kind of a long quote, but it's really good for the day to day practice of medicine is about caring for the individual. Well, we physicians fill our days providing sound advice to our patients. There are, by comparison, remarkably few recommendations that we can make to the population as a whole. Everyone should exercise and wear seat belts. Nobody should smoke or drink excessively. Everyone should receive childhood vaccines. Not only are these types of recommendations limited, no, they are also neither terribly interesting nor surprising.
They would certainly not support a daily or even weekly television show.
And this is really the central problem with a figure like Dr. Oz.
Instead of trying to actually, like, be America's doctor, he's just like giving everybody everything at once with no context. Totally.
And I think, like most of research, world is like pretty unsatisfying. If you've not done the deep dive into, like Google Scholar, there are very few medical studies that, like a single study, comes up with a definitive conclusion about what every individual should do differently. Exactly. And those things where there are definitive findings are the things that you're talking about, which is just like you should probably drink some more water. Yeah, it's like a little bit of, you know, squeezing blood out of a stone.
So I want to do a deep dive into the green coffee bean curfuffle. Tell me which I'm sure you were aware of.
All I know is that it was a big thing and it was a big thing, mostly because of him. Yeah, but I don't know anything about the science behind it. I don't know anything about sort of how it became the sort of juggernaut.
Would you like me to walk you through it with clips and Google scholar citations. Oh, my God. Everything. Yes, please. All right. I'm going to send you a clip.
It's kind of long, but there are specifics in this clip that we need to dissect. Gotcha. So here it is. Oh, OK. So I will say, while we're going to cued up, Dr. Oz is standing in front of a screen. He is surrounded by these little pedestals that have flames on the side of them. Then the screens behind him say the miracle pill to burn fat fast.
I know, and it only gets worse, I just wait till we get into the oh Lord, this little bean has scientists saying they found the magic weight loss cure for everybody type. It's green coffee beans. And when turned into a supplement, this miracle pill can burn fat fast for anyone who wants to lose weight.
That's why the doctor and certified nutritionist Lindsay Duncan is here with the findings. So that was you love this bean.
Why is that? You know, I usually don't recommend weight loss supplements, but this one has got me really, really excited. The recent study that you were talking about earlier, the participants took the capsules and they did nothing else. They didn't exercise. They didn't change their diet. They actually consumed 20, 400 calories a day. They burned only 400 calories. Now, that's weight gain, not weight loss. And they lost over 10 percent of their total body weight and they had no side effects, zero side effects.
That's remarkable. Yes.
You guys interested in this? And so this is the raw material for coffee that we drink.
Why wouldn't just drinking coffee do this? It's what we call a triple threat, OK? And it's the chloro genic acid that causes the effect. And it works three ways. The first way is it goes in and it causes the body to burn glucose or sugar and burn fat, mainly in the liver the second way. And the most important way is it slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream. When the two are combined together, you get this synergistic effect that basically burns and blocks and stops fat, but it also is natural and safe.
So the capsules you can buy, where you buy it online, you want to make sure that this is important, that it's pure. So you go to your Web browser, you type in pure green coffee beans or pure green coffee bean extract, and you make sure that it doesn't have all the additives, the excipients, the binder's the cellulose and the silica and all of the other stuff. So look under other ingredients to make sure that it's a pure product.
The it's such bullshit, but it's such compelling bullshit. Do you want to keep going? Are you bummed that we stop?
I hardly even know where to start with. That's right. You have to make sure that it's pure. But there's no regulation on supplements. Yes.
And truly ever even just like street drug dealers will tell you should ask your feels certain that both of these people probably know better than to just say, hey, check and make sure it's pure, sweet, sweet Obree.
It's so much worse than you think. It's so bad.
OK, tell me all of this information is from a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit. So what we find out from the discovery files, once everything goes public, this guy, Lindsey Duncan, he's not a medical doctor. He has a naturopathic degree from the Clayton College of Natural Health, which is a school that the state of Texas has said confers fraudulent and substandard degrees, that he seems like he's just like a doctor on this. Right. Like I'm just somebody who cares about your health.
He's actually a marketing executive for a company that makes supplements. Yeah, that's right. So about a month before he comes on, Dr. Oz, he gets an email that eventually ends up in the Federal Trade Commission lawsuit from the Dr. Oz Show.
And they say, you know, we're hearing about this green coffee bean extract. Do you know anything? You know, have you heard anything about this? There's this study that's coming out showing weight loss. Have you heard anything about this? He at this point has never heard of this thing. He immediately writes back and says, yes, I've heard of it. I'm really excited about it. And then that same day, he starts calling manufacturers to start producing green coffee bean extract.
Oh, God, it's dark.
So over the next month, he calls up like Walgreens and Amazon, all these other retailers and says, look, I'm going to be on the Dr. Oz Show. You guys need to have this on your shelves and ready.
Another really important thing. Remember in the clip how he said, like, you need to take eight hundred milligrams of it twice a day and you need to look for the pure version of it, whatever.
These are search terms that he bought. Oh, Google what? Yes.
So he's done SEO Exactly. To make sure that when people search those terms, they will get his version and not anybody else's version. Exactly.
So according to the lawsuit, all of this is completely deliberate, like all of the wording that he uses on the show is deliberate. He's going back and forth with the producers of Dr. Oz, like working on the script for weeks before this airs. So he knows exactly what he's going to say.
That's so upsetting, like so truly like I feel like I don't have a ton of, like, Pollyanna kind of my do. I really, really, really thought this episode was going to be like he's been reckless, not this is like an evil mass. Rhyme scheme to like just to Selja, I mean, the closest thing we have to a defense of Dr. Oz is that Dr. Oz does not sell and never has sold supplements. The only thing that he sells is he has like a sleep store on his website results like pillows and mattresses and shit.
I think Dr. Oz probably didn't know, but also they didn't do any background checks on this guy.
Right? Zero due diligence. Zero due diligence. Yeah. While we're at it, the study that they mentioned on The Dr. Oz Show, the study that shows that people do no diet, they do no exercise. All they do is they start taking green coffee beans and then all of a sudden the weight magically melts off.
Oh, yes. And they also said, like this miracle pill for 16 weeks, you just the weight just drops off. I was like, this is all of the language from Fanfan and dude. Yes.
So it turns out that this study is a total scam. The study was initiated by the manufacturer of green coffee bean extract.
The study was on 16 people already, huge red flag that if that small, they found a researcher in India and then hired a researcher to do this study, like to recruit participants and then what they find out, this is all part of the FTC lawsuit. Eventually they find out that the researcher is constantly changing things like she's not putting the data into the study. Well, so, like, people's weights are fluctuating all over the place. She's mixing up who's in the green coffee bean group and the placebo group.
Basically, the company that makes this green coffee beans stuff loses confidence in this researcher. And they hire two more researchers at the University of Scranton. They basically take her data, which they already knew was bad because the numbers have been changing all over the place. And they they presented at a conference. So it's never actually published. And it's presented at this Cleveland Clinic conference. That is the entire basis for this claim that you can do no diet and exercise and lose 10 percent of your body weight.
Which is also, again, since time immemorial, this has been sort of like the magic claim. Yes. At the very least, if we had found something like that, you would hear it from your doctor.
I mean, so much of this really to me comes back to this idea that, like, there's something doctors don't want you to know. I mean, this is language that Dr. Oz uses on his show all the time. He's like, this is what the Western medical system won't tell you. And it's like the obesity epidemic is a pretty entrenched component of our culture. And if there was a cure for it that was this easy, you wouldn't just be hearing about it in like a four minute segment on a TV show.
It would be cover of time. It would be cover of Newsweek. It would be a huge fucking deal.
Right. And even then it would be fun then. Yeah. Even then it would still like maybe kill you. Probably make you super.
Oh. So do you want to know how he got this way Aubrey.
How did he get this way. What's his back story.
It's kind of a fascinating and tragic story. So Memet Oz, he's born in nineteen sixty. He grows up in Ohio. His parents are Turkish, so he spends summers in Turkey growing up. His father is also a surgeon and just seems to be like one of those dads who just like wants you to be number one all the time.
The story that Dr. Oz always tells is that he tells his dad, I'm one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in America.
And his dad immediately says, what number are you? Oh, so he goes to Harvard for undergraduate in nineteen eighty five. This actually turns out to be a really important moment for him. He meets his wife, who at the time is named Lisa Bloom. All her dad's a surgeon and her mom is like kind of a woo woo new age person. And it seems like as soon as Dr. Oz marries Lisa, this is when he starts dabbling in alternative medicines in nineteen eighty six.
This is wild. He got a dual M.D. MBA from the University of Pennsylvania who worked at.
Right. But also feels like that's some solid foreshadowing to be like I know to be good at doctoring and business. A business saying, yeah.
Then he immediately gets a post at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. This is when, like all the doctors, all his colleagues, everybody says that he's a wildly talented surgeon. Julia Ballou's, this really great journalist for Vox, goes and interviews a bunch of his colleagues, and most of them say, I would let Dr. Oz do surgery on me. He wins like prestigious awards. He has eleven patents. Wow. For various open heart aortic valve, something something stuff.
But then this is also when he gets more serious about the alternative therapies.
So this is an excerpt from an article that Julia Ballou's wrote about Dr. Oz basically trying to answer the question like, how did he get this way? And this gets published in twenty fourteen. She says, with his father in law's encouragement, he began to explore music therapy, energy fields and therapeutic touch. And began to offer them to his surgical patients here to Lisa, played a major role. She is a Reiki master and soon became famous at New York Presbyterian for encouraging the practice of Reiki in the operating room.
This is are you familiar with Ricky? I am a queer lady from Portland, Oregon.
Yes, I am. You're doing it right now? Yeah. It's sort of like the idea is that you're doing this sort of laying on of hands, but you're not actually touching someone, right? Yes. And the idea is that you're manipulating their energy. Yes.
I think this is a really big moment because on some level, the Reiki stuff seems fine to me. If a surgeon is a little kooky and, you know, they think that playing classical music helps you recover faster or there's some things in sort of ancient Chinese medicine that might help surgical patients recover from a heart surgery. The placebo effect is a real thing. And so if the doctor is convinced that these therapies work and the patients are convinced of these therapies work, they probably do actually have some beneficial effects.
Yeah, very true. It couldn't hurt.
But then it seems like from this little seed, he then starts just expanding more and more and more. So in nineteen four, he opens his own clinic and then he starts doing sort of hypnosis and aromatherapy and prayer. It just becomes like this weird grab bag. Right.
And it's not like he's not adopting whole cloth additional sort of like systems of medical thinking. He's not going like we're going to do a hybrid of Western surgery plus principles of Chinese medicine plus blah, blah, blah. He's just going like, oh, sure. Sounds like a good idea. Right?
There's no there's no sort of theory behind it. He's just vacuuming up whatever is around, whatever you got. All right. Yeah.
Another really important thing that starts happening in the mid 90s is he starts to get mainstream press attention. So the surgical team that he's part of in New York does a bunch of sort of firsts, like a bunch of genuinely, really innovative surgeries and gets press attention.
And once journalist starts sniffing around and they realize there's this like charismatic, handsome doctor who does these sort of weird, kooky things in the operating room, but is also really effective. Stories start trickling out of this clinic. And so Julie Ballou's interviews one of his former nurse practitioners. She says it became about Ozz, not about the project, not about the patients, not about the work that all became secondary to his rise to the top. He was always acting.
He didn't know this patient. He was not connected to this patient. We'd give him a two or three minute soundbite and he'd sit there in front of cameras like he'd done this work and had this deep connection.
Yeah, it's it's so sad because I'm like I can totally understand why people get irritated. And I can also totally understand how this would be so enticing for someone whose dad just always wanted them to be number one. Seriously. Oh, I feel for you, Bud. But also, this might not be the way. Right.
And so he has the confidence of an evangelist, you know, I mean, the guy's literally doing heart surgery on people.
He's saving people's lives. So it's very easy after that to say it wasn't the heart surgery, it was their rakhi that save someone's life.
I know this is also 2001 is when he gets his TV show for the first time. So little known fact Dr. Oz's roommate in college ended up becoming the president of the Discovery Channel.
So after them talking and him getting all this press attention and doing this interesting surgical stuff, eventually he and his wife pitched the show to the Discovery Channel called Second Opinion with Dr. Oz. They do a series of 13 episodes where every episode is him interviewing a celebrity about some sort of health issue. So fatefully, his first episode is about obesity and he interviews Oprah. So this is how they come in contact. She really likes him and she starts thinking, hey, why don't I have this guy on my show?
He's charismatic. He's smart. He's interesting.
Yeah, he's a super likable dude.
Yes, exactly. Any way of presenting information in a way that makes it really easy for people. So one of his first appearances on Oprah, famously, he comes on with like a heart, like an actual heart, and he's like, this is a healthy heart. And then he pulls out like a big gross sort of white marbled heart. And he's like, this is a heart if you have obesity.
And like, look how bad it is this sort of this showmanship, this way of having visual aids. This becomes his trademark.
Yeah, I absolutely, as you were describing that I was like, oh, I absolutely remember both watching that show and then hearing the way that people talk to me afterwards. Yeah. It was this wild moment of supercharging the like. Don't you care about your health? I know I also remember from Propp world that he had one episode that I saw at one point. I think I might have been getting my nails done or something where he was like, let's talk about your colon and you have the big fabric tube set up that will have people like walk through.
Yeah. The inside of their colon.
There's a lot of. Whoopings stuff that I cut out of this episode, honestly.
He's like obsessed with Bomas and like the way that your poo is supposed to look and how it's supposed to sound and like this sort of demystification of these kinds of things that you're not supposed to talk about is actually a big part of his brand.
Are you happy now, Dad? I'm the number one poop doctor. I can't believe you brought up the poop stuff.
I really want to say I'm so sorry. I am so sorry. It was like watching one of those, like, dystopian future things where I'm like in the future, people laugh at a doctor talking about pooping. I know. What is this?
The Hunger Games. So in 2009 is when he finally gets his own show.
So it's been 11 years. Yes. One of the most interesting studies I found was a BMJ study that did a systematic content analysis of what he presents on his show. So they watched 40 episodes. They got four hundred and seventy nine health recommendations from those 40 episodes. And then they picked 80 of them at random to look at the evidence. What they found is that only forty six percent of them had any evidence to support them and 15 percent had evidence against them, like evidence that they don't work.
So nestled among the sort of the bullshit weight loss, intermittent fasting, take a green coffee bean pill, you'll find things like how to get a better night's sleep, how to get more fruit into your diet. Here's tips for how to quit smoking.
So it's not all bullshit, but the fact that it's half bullshit and half not. And he's toggling between them without necessarily like good road signs for this has evidence. And this doesn't like that's the central problem.
Right. I would actually argue that that is more destructive, just like straight up like medicine show pitch of just like I've got your miracle cure right here. Yeah.
It just sort of fortifies the soup that we're all living in all the time, which is when it comes to health and wellness and weight loss and nutrition and all of that kind of stuff.
We're like in this mucky combination of real verified information and marketing and wishful thinking. Right.
So for the rest of the episode, I want to walk through the way that he defends what he's doing. Oh, interesting. Most of this comes from his 2014 congressional testimony, which I think is like a rich text. Yeah, the sort of the clips from that testimony that go viral are the back and forth between him and the senators. And I mostly think those are bullshit because the senators are just kind of playing to the cameras. Sure. But when you give congressional testimony, you have to give a long, detailed statement.
And Dr. Oz's statement is actually very interesting because it's the first time that he's ever in detail had to defend the impact that his show has on the health of Americans. That's so fascinating.
I realize, like as you're saying this, I'm realizing that I don't think I've ever heard him answer for any of this sort of on his own terms. Like you, I watched the sort of like Claire McCaskill and Dr. Oz back and forth, which was, I will say, totally playing to the cameras. Totally political theater. Don't care. Oh, yeah. Very compelling political theater. It's fun to watch.
We're going to we're going to do it later in the show. Yes. He makes four claims in defending his show. And we're going to walk through them one by one. The first claim that he makes is that he's educating viewers about their health. So this is what he says in his congressional testimony. When we write a script, we need to generate enthusiasm and engage the viewer. Viewers don't watch the show because they're seeking dry clinical language. They watch because we use language that's familiar to them, which they would use when speaking to friends and loved ones, which is a laudable goal.
If he was actually doing that, yes, that would be great. Totally. This is I feel like this is going to be like probably how this testimony all plays out, where I'm like, that sounds good and reasonable. And you're going to be like, but it's not what he was doing exactly.
Because Yeah. So OK, I shouldn't have done this. This was like the biggest waste of my fucking time. But I read one of his books. Oh my God.
It's called You The User's Manual. It was actually really easy because it's mostly like recipes and shit. Like there's very little actual content in his book. But there's a difference between boiling scientific information down for a lay audience and fucking lying to them. And he consistently lies. Give me a flavor of some of those.
What are some of the things that are just, like, categorically untrue?
OK, so I'm going to read to you from his from his miserable book, OK? Oh, God, you don't need to be a Rhodes Scholar to stay mentally strong. Simple changes can do the trick. Take another study, one that measured brain function of retirees who frequented a Starbucks in Illinois. The half who just sat and drank their coffee got no smarter, while the half who drank their coffee while walking for forty five minutes at least three days a week actually improved their IQ parentheses.
No word on how many bathroom breaks they needed. Oh Lord. The explanation. Physical activity improves arterial function and better arterial function improves brain function. I feel like I'm going to go into the methodology flaws of this study, dude, and be like, right. But these kinds of people have access to these kinds of spaces to do walking about.
And then you're just going to be like, it wasn't a study, but I could start to pick it apart.
But I also know that I'm going to be, like, too generous with how I pick it apart, exactly what I was expecting.
You would find some sort of specific things to nit pick at. And then the twist. I'm like, the study does not exist.
Aubury, which is true.
I spent half a fucking day looking for this actual study. I put it out on Twitter. I was like, if you have any background in neuroscience, cognitive function, anything, have you ever heard of the study? I looked at literature reviews. I could not find a study that found people in Starbucks.
Some of them drink coffee and some of them walked and drank their coffee. This study does not exist.
And I want to be clear, this is the first study in his book that I looked.
It's not like I went through his book and I wrote down all the studies and it looked for is like, oh, that was real and that was real hope. This one's fake. This is the first one I looked into. And it's not a fucking real study. There is no study that measured the effect of walking on IQ and what actual cognitive neuro people say they don't use IQ as a variable in cities like this because IQ does not change like that.
That's not how these studies work.
And it didn't even happen. It's not even making you smarter because it didn't even happen. That study doesn't exist. Oh, my God. My also. Can I just be a total dick? Yes, of course.
All of this things like only to use colloquial language. We just like to talk to folks how their folks and then listen to this fucking sentence. Physical activity improves arterial function and better arterial function improves brain function.
That's a shitty sentence like exercise increases your blood flow and your brain needs blood to function. Yes. Oh, Jesus.
This is why science communication is hard, is because you don't want to misrepresent anything, but you do want to get it across in a way that people can absorb it. And that's something that Dr. Oz like instead of doing the difficult work of coming up with like metaphors that can help people understand complex phenomena or whatever, he's just like this is a breakthrough revolutionary thing. Walking in coffee IQ, you're like, well, you're not actually simplifying anything. You're making stuff up.
Those are two different things.
He's like coming up with these sort of like studies that like don't exist, or if they do, he's not citing them or whatever. And then he's building giant fabric columns for a team like flames of green coffee beans and whatever, like, oh, it's not science.
Yes. So, OK, second second defense the Dr. Oz offers for himself. He is giving people an alternative to Western medicine.
No, he's not. I know. I know it's not spoiling the episode.
So for this one, we're going to do a little table read.
Oh, my God. OK, are you sending me a link? Yes, I was going to I was going to play the clip of his exchange with Claire McCaskill in the congressional hearing. But it's just really long and really boring. So I took the transcript and I condensed it down. So we're going to do a sort of distilled version of this. OK, do you want to play Dr. Oz or do you want to play Claire McCaskill?
I'll be Claire McCaskill. That sounds fun. OK, so this is from the twenty fourteen congressional hearing.
Congress was looking into false weight loss claims OD'ing. All right. It is. It's long. It's serious business. I know.
OK, are your your your motivation is that you're mad at Dr. Oz. Indeed. Viral moments for your Twitter feed later today. Grill me now.
Here are three statements you made on your show. Quote, You may think magic is make believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they found the magic weight loss cure for every body type. Quote, I've got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your body fat. It's raspberry ketone. Oh, sorry, I just got it. Sounds like a delicious salad dressing.
You're breaking character already. I know it's unprofessional every time there is a quote.
Garcia, Cambodia, it may be the simple solution you've been looking for to bust your body fat for good. I don't get why you need to see this stuff because you know, it's not true with regards to whether they work or not.
Take the green coffee bean extract as an example. I'm not going to argue that it would pass FDA muster if it was a pharmaceutical drug seeking approval. But among the natural products that are out there, this is a product that has several clinical trials.
I mean, I've tried to really do a lot of research and preparation for this hearing. And the scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products that you call miracles. And when you call a product a miracle and it's something that you can buy and it's something that gives people false hope. I just don't understand why you needed to go there.
My job, I feel on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience and they don't think they have hope or they don't think they can make it happen. I want to look and I do look everywhere, including in alternative healing traditions for any evidence that might be supportive to them. So you pick on green coffee bean extract. The amount of information that I have on that, I'm still comfortable telling folks that if you can buy a reputable version of it and I say this all the time, I don't sell it.
And these are not for long term use.
Oh, God, what do you think it is total political theater? Because he doesn't say anything substantive. No, it's a satisfying exchange, but there's nothing in there where she goes. No, these are the studies. How do you respond to all these studies that say this doesn't do shit?
Right. So the thing that jumps out at me about this, and I think because I've read so many interviews with him and he does this all the fucking time and it drives me nuts, he does this three step move. First of all, he says green coffee bean extract is good because look at the studies that show how much weight you can lose by taking this extract. Right.
And then somebody pushes back on him and they say, well, that study was only of 16 people. That study wasn't very high quality. And then instead of responding to those points, he then says, well, it's alternative medicine. I don't know if it would necessarily pass FDA muster, but, you know, there's different healing traditions around the world and we couldn't possibly apply those standards.
And it's like if we can't apply those standards, then why were you saying that you should take it because of a study, right? To no. Pick one. This is an alternative treatment. And the way that we know that is because of Western study. Yes. And isn't doing right by those medical traditions. Well, that's the thing.
Green coffee bean extract is a fucking pill that is made by a multinational corporation.
And then you're saying it's alternative, you know, and a lot of ways it mimics the like medicine show stuff that we talked about during our snake oil dude conversation. Right. People like have been rightfully disappointed by Western medicine. People have had bad experiences. I'm a fat lady. You don't need to tell me about bad experiences and doctors offices. And what he's doing is sort of like glomming on to this sort of vague but not totally founded idea that there is like someone else is doing it better or somewhere it's sort of riding the coattails of the genuine mistrust the folks have for understandable reasons often.
Yes. Also another really interesting thing. There's a lot of really good articles by doctors like people who literally practice Western medicine. They say that it's also kind of bullshit to be saying these are alternative medicines. We couldn't possibly measure them with Western medicine. And what these doctors point out is that if you talk about something like yoga, that's like an alternative medicine scene is very worthwhile. Will, 20 years ago, the medical benefits of yoga are extremely well documented.
That's not some woo woo thing. Like we couldn't possibly say that yoga is good using our techniques of Western medicine. It's like there are hundreds of studies showing that yoga improves people's lives, things like meditation and getting a good night's sleep and eating a balanced diet. We can measure the effects of those things. Those are not somehow alternative. I don't know why we're acting as if these are somehow these like mystical practices that we couldn't possibly assess. No, right.
And not every treatment from every corner of the world has been sort of like tested or studied. Right. There has to be money behind that. There be all of those different kind of stuff. So we're not saying like if it's good Western medicine, quote unquote, we'll have validated it. Right. Like but in this case, like if we take green coffee extract, we have an incredibly money to supplement company that stands to gain astonishing levels of welfare system, has the money and the systems to be sort of studied and to see if its effects are what we think they are.
And that hasn't happened. So at the very least, that's like a red flag. That's a red flag.
There's this like weird fake dichotomy between alternative and Western medicine. And neither one of those terms are remotely defined.
Right. It's sort of this, like, floating signifier, right? Yeah. And it also it feels to me like it prevents change to because of what you're against is Western medicine. You're just going to do all this like naturopath, random stuff. You're not going to try to get better policies for universal health care. Or maybe doctors should be able to spend more than seven minutes with their patients. I mean, there's specific changes that we can make to the American health care system to make it more responsive to people.
If you have a critique of that system, listen, I'm an organizer. I am fully on board. This is not how that happens.
I mean, I do think the fact that Dr. Oz is a lifelong Republican is under discussion.
No, this is a very Republican worldview, right.
That it's like the free market is going to solve these problems.
Yeah, there's nothing we can do to change our medical system except for the many massive things that we've done to change our medical system. Yes, I just hate that shit. I mean, this is like one of my extreme pet peeves is like you can't change the world. You can only change yourself kind of thing. Oh, Western medicine is going to be what Western medicine is going to. But listen, what you got to get on board with is this green coffee extract or raspberry ketones or what the fuck ever.
So his next claim, Lord, is that he never endorses specific products.
So this is an excerpt from his opening statement at the congressional hearing.
I started as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004 and had my first experiences with scam advertising at that time when we discussed supplements like Siberry and Resveratrol, there wasn't anything special about my description of them. But immediately the Internet ads began springing up, using pictures of us showing quotes claiming that Miss Winfrey and I were supporting these products and selling them. This is basically his main claim that, look, did we mention something called resveratrol on our shows?
I guess we mentioned it. Sure. All of a sudden, these random Internet con artists start selling it and saying that we're endorsing it. How dare they?
Yeah, but also, like, you are fucking endorsing it.
Do do do you want to hear the actual transcript of what he said about resveratrol on Oprah? Oh, God. OK, keep in mind, he is saying, how would anyone get the impression from this that I'm endorsing this product? Right. Here's the actual words that he said. Resveratrol does one other thing.
It turns on a system in your body that prevents your cells from aging. Now, think about it. Where do they grow these grapes? On trees. On hillsides. Right. It's not a very hospitable environment. So these grapes are sending a signal to us that life might not be so good. So why not turn on that cellular chemistry that you have that allows you to live longer and better? What it's like. Oh, yeah. How could anybody get the impression that you're endorsing this product?
Also, how does any plant survive on a hill? I know.
So inhospitable, but it's also not very convincing.
Things grow everywhere. What are you talking about?
So, I mean, on some level, like, I have a teaspoon of sympathy for Dr. Oz because of course, after this show airs, all these scam companies appear out of nowhere. And apparently they started selling, know, 30 day supply of resveratrol and people would sign up for it. Then they would make it impossible to cancel. And at the same time, they're saying it's endorsed by Dr. Oz and Oprah. So a lot of people end up getting mad at Dr.
Oz and Oprah.
It's totally shitty. And also, at some point, he has to acknowledge and the show has to acknowledge that that is an ecosystem that has sprung up around their show.
Well, this is the thing is that if he had said on his show, eat avocados, avocados are good. You know, avocado sales probably would have spiked or whatever, but you wouldn't have all these fucking grifters coming out of the woodwork because that's not like a Griffy sector, right? Any time you're sending people to essentially a used car dealership, they're going to get scammed because you're sending them into this extremely grifter's sector of the economy. And you can't just say, like I bought a Honda Civic and I love my Honda Civic and it's a handsome car.
And they'd be like, I can't believe all these people bought Honda Civics.
Four million people. Watch your show. He's not even meeting the Instagram threshold for you have to be like hashtag ad.
So this is actually, I think the biggest flaw in the congressional testimony is that over and over again, the senators will press him on selling these scam products and then he will push back and say the problem is that they weren't really selling the product. So this is what he says.
I once confronted an egregious advertiser of Ghazni or Cambodia on my show, in part because we found not only was he stealing my name, he was also only providing 10 percent of the active ingredients.
And it's like, you don't get it, do you? And nobody follows up on this. It doesn't matter. The active ingredient is bullshit.
It doesn't matter if it's 10 percent or 100 percent. Right. There's like a darkly hilarious section of the congressional testimony where he's going back and forth with one of the male senators and they're like, so what are your policy ideas for fixing these, like Skåne, weight loss, Griffy sector of the economy, Dr. Oz's main policy idea, like how to fix it. He's like, we need a database of products that are really endorsed by celebrities.
That stuff that's for you. Like that's to protect you, doctor. That's not to protect other people.
Look, I need to know that Kim Kardashian really endorsed me.
OK, so last claim we're going to talk about this one is that sounds really mean like I've been mean I've been like not charitable this episode. And this is like the least charitable. So I got the final claim that Dr. Oz makes is that he's gotten better.
One of the last things that he says in his congressional testimony is he's lying about the green coffee bean extract thing. He never says, I'm sorry, but like, the closest thing he ever does to saying I'm sorry. He's like, you know, we made some mistakes there.
And, you know, as an example of how I've learned, we recently had a product on our show called Yakob. Sarah, you heard this. Not ever. It's basically an excerpt from my sweet potatoes, like the stuff that comes out of sweet potatoes.
Sure. When you bake a sweet potato, there's like that little do that sort of puddle. Yes.
He he says, like, look, we recently did a segment on this on the show. We didn't call it a miracle. We didn't call it magical. We were really responsible. And so, of course, as soon as I was reading this, I was like, I need to see the segment.
Yeah. Yep. Let's see the new and improved Dr. Oz. So we are going to watch this clip. My God, this is the new and improved Dr. Oz.
This is Dr. Oz on his best behavior.
My God, two women up here. I've got a woman that's a little bit on the big side, right. You come to back. Come next, you won't bite me. All right. And on this side, a little bit of a thinner woman. So researchers think that the first way the sheriff works is to speed up your metabolism. So if you do have excess fat, one of the reasons we think that's happening and a lot of you don't want to look like that, do I have that right now?
So if we believe as more and more of us in the science field are, that the bacteria in your gut are what's making you happy. Then the question becomes, can we change that, that got the bacteria you have is very different. It's caused by having too many processed foods in our poor diet. You don't want those kinds of bacteria. Those are fat bacteria. This person's gut, however, is filled with more of the good bacteria. I like to call it skinny bacteria.
That's one of the reasons that people who are thin can stay thin. That's the first way that scientists believe that this year corn syrup works. The next way that we believe that you may work for weight loss is that it makes you feel full. So in order to demonstrate this, I have to put you in a little bit of risk. So come on up here. I'll help you up. All right. We're stopping now. It's a fucking nightmare from here on.
I don't need to know why he's hooking her into a sex swing.
He ends up doing this thing where he talks about how your cone syrup affects your hunger and satiety hormones. And it's like it lifts up the level of satiety hormones and then he lifts her off the ground.
Once it's like him, it's him trying to do like make a fun explanation out of an extremely simple scientific concept.
So when they step onto the stage, there is this sort of wall of screens at the back of the stage that has a profile of a thin white woman in a bra and panties. And I would say a pretty small, fat white woman also in a bra and panties. That's what he's referring to when he goes. Most of you don't want to look like this, right? The woman that he has brought up from the audience absolutely looks like that.
Yeah, I know. Like she is the size and shape that he is talking about while he's asking the audience, you don't want to look like that. Do you know she seems nice.
She seems lovely.
I guess he's careful to say that it's not a miracle and it's not magic. I mean, he doesn't technically use the words that he used in the green bean extract clip. Right.
But he straightforwardly says that it speeds up your metabolism. He straightforwardly says that it gives you skinny stomach bacteria. He straightforwardly says that it makes you feel full for longer, like he's still making a bunch of claims, like specific claims that are not true. And at this point, he doesn't need to say that it's a miracle cure. He has the miracle cure show. Yes, that's what people tune in for. Right.
He's basically making the argument that it is this miracle thing without saying the word miracle. But there's not a meaningful difference between those two things, telling people that switching from sugar to conserve is going to lower their blood pressure, ease their constipation. Of course, he mentions constipation. Is it your metabolism and makes you feel full for longer. That's what people want from a miracle weight loss. Cure is for those four things.
I have to say now that I know your aversion to the stuff, I very much want to find the poop center know this is our poop episode.
This is as close as we're getting this in Olestra. Oh yeah. Huh. Poop episodes.
I mean, of course I looked up the science on your concer. It's a bunch of fucking nice studies. It's a real thing. It appears that there's actually some use of your concern for diabetics because it's a way of sweetening foods, but it's much less sweet than sugar. So like, OK is like is it a completely useless thing in the world? No, it seems fine, but also it has side effects if you eat too much of it.
And also most people that switch from sugar to a conserve just end up using more Yekhanurov because they want the sweetness.
Yeah, totally. I just think it's incredible. Does he not think that we can see him like he goes in front of Congress and he's like, look how much better I am now? Is this you better, right?
No, I don't think it's that he thinks we can't see him. I think it look, if we're looking at this through, like, strategic communications perspective, right. He knows that his audience is not watching his congressional hearings. The people who watch Dr. Oz and the people who watch fucking C-SPAN. Yeah, no kidding. Like, there's not a lot of overlap, guys. So he's aware that he just has to give quotes that sound reasonable. Yeah.
And get out of there. Yeah. Yeah. The whole thing is just like a whole mess.
There's a huge, like, elite accountability story here, too.
And there was an open letter from ten prominent physicians to Columbia saying that Columbia should no longer have him working there. There's been a at the American Medical Association, but the American Medical Association can't really do anything because all the licensing is done at the state level. And then the state level says that they can't do anything because it would be setting a bad precedent, etc., that are I mean, it's it's very white collar crime right over and over again.
Every form of accountability that would ever impose any minor, tiny consequences on Dr. Oz finds an excuse not to do it, like one of the defenses of him in inside higher ed, which is doing is like panic thing about free speech, doctors, professors, tenure, etc..
They say the real reason these writers are seeking to fire Oz from Columbia is a form of public shaming.
And it's like, yes, people should be shamed for constantly lying. Right.
Or the very least you shouldn't be continually provided with the tools to continue to lie to people. Yes, you have an. Ethical obligation to your patients and to people who think they are your patients. Yeah, you can't just keep doing everything as you have been doing it. If it's actively hurting people, stop being bad.
Yeah, stopping bad stuff. Be bad. And also, since the congressional hearing, if anything, he's gotten worse. So in twenty sixteen, he does a physical exam on Trump. What sort of live on TV. Yeah. He had Trump on and Trump, you know, he's like why didn't you release your medical records.
And Trump is like I did release my medical records and Dr. Oz is like sounds good. What. And then he does this like theatrical fake physical exam, which like he doesn't in any way touch. Like it's not a real physical exam. But he just asks Trump a bunch of these questions and Trump is able to answer yes or no.
And then he's like, you seem like you're in good physical health chiefs.
And then this is amazing synergy, convergence for our show. In twenty eighteen, Trump appoints him to the president's Council on Youth Fitness. That old chestnut.
I know. So it's just like all the bullshit fads coming together.
The last thing I Googled on Dr. Oz's website was what he's been doing this year during covid.
And I'm going to read you some headlines on covid-19 and immunity, the vitamin and mineral prescription plan recommended by experts. This shopping list will help you choose foods for covid-19 immunity. This is my favorite one.
Should zinc be added to treatment protocols for covid-19 patients? In his defense, he has not been a covert anti Voxer.
He's been very clear about like you should get vaccinated for covid. So it's like the one saving grace.
But he spent a lot of twenty twenty spreading basically some like pretty bad information about covid covid immunity is not going to come from the fucking grocery store.
Dude, all of those headlines sounded to me like Troy McClure educational films. Yes.
As an actor I need my eyeballs to be there. Whities. Yes. Again like if we're talking about playing on folks anxiety about mortality, I don't know if there's any clearer way to do that than say, oh, you got to take zinc, otherwise you're going to get covered in zinc.
Dude, I mean, this is the kind of stuff that makes me feel sort of like not hopeless, but despairing dude. Yeah. All of this stuff makes it seem like weight loss is super simple. All you need to do is buy this supplement. All you need to do is have the right gut bacteria. All you need to do is bla bla bla bla bla. The idea that you could spend this much time talking about how terrible it is to be fat and all the ways that you don't have to be fat and that that would not sort of impact the way that people think about and treat fat people or disabled people or chronically ill people or what have you is fully bananas.
So it's also like not only is he playing real fast and loose with the truth and sometimes just making it up, he's also sort of feeding these fires, right.
Oh, so we should let Dr. Oz have the last word on this show. So this is this is how he this is toward the end of his congressional testimony.
You're not going to believe this because you know what the biggest disservice I've done for my audience, it's not the flowery language that Senator McCaskill is criticizing me for. It's that I never told them where to buy the products.
But how dare they think I'm trying to sell something?
This is what he sees as his central sin, that he was not selling them reliable versions of raspberry ketones or whatever.
I love the idea that he's like, how dare people think I was selling them things? That's actually my biggest mistake, is that I wasn't. I know. No, sir.
So that's it. That's our that's our tour through the yellow brick road of Dr. Oz's bullshit.
I have to tell you, I was kind of excited coming into this to just be like, yeah, that guy seems like garbage and this is significantly darker.
And then I made it really sad and horrible. I'm sorry. No, no, it's horrible.
It's just like it is like way more sinister. It's sinister, dude. I know.
Systemically sinister, but actually, you know, it's really good if you're reeling. Tell me take a little bit of your counselor up. Get out of here. One teaspoon gut bacteria. I'm going to hang up on you.