Why you shouldn’t listen to TV doctors

The doctors

There you were at the holiday table filled with your closest friends and family.  Inevitably somebody at the table has traded in their love of soap opera stars for an obsession with those handsome daytime TV doctors.   Good looking, smart, and oh so helpful.  So your aunt Martha is going on and on between helpings of stuffing about all the latest advances and advice she has learned from her dapper daytime medical consultants.  You listen with an open mind and most of it sounds interesting and plausible but generally you’re a bit skeptical.  Maybe you think Martha is a bit of a nut for believing everything she sees on TV.    She is after all wiping her mouth with her new ShamWow she bought on QVC and she did bring beef, turkey, chicken, and vegetable jerky from her new Jerky machine.  But maybe what she learned is true, the TV doctors are real doctors after all.

tv_doctors_do_this_all_the_damn_time_bigIf you’re questioning your aunt martha, your best friend, or even yourself after learning something from the TV doctors, it turns out you’re right to question.  In fact, some Canadian researchers also questioned these claims.  These investigators watched 40 random episodes of The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors from early 2013.  They then looked up the research on all the claims made by the celebrity MDs.   Their results were disturbing but not necessarily surprising.   It turns out that only 54% of the 160 strong recommendations on both shows were supported by some published evidence (at least a case study).   The Doctors were significantly better than Dr. Oz which is not surpising to me (see my prior posts on Dr. Oz by clicking here and here).  About 63% of recommendations from The Doctors were supported by any evidence, compared to only 46% from Dr. Oz.  As a practicing physician I recognize that it not all of our claims or recommendations can be supported by research . It’s just not possible.   However, what was really upsetting to me was that on Dr. Oz, 15% and on The Doctors 14% of recommendations were contradicted by evidence, i.e. they were proven to be wrong.

All this supports something that I have said for some time.  When a doctor goes on TV, he or she no longer is a doctor, but is now an actor.  They are not answering to their patients, they are answering to their producers and their ratings.  In the 2012 Greatist report, Dr Mehmet Oz and Dr Travis Stork (one of the hosts of The Doctors) were both included in the top 100 health and fitness influencers.  Millions of people make decisions based on these shows that can have profound impacts on their health and lives both good and bad.  If you’re one of those people you must know that there’s close toa  50/50 shot that what is being recommended to you has no foundation in any research and that there’s a 1 in 7 chance that what you’re being told has actually been proven to be wrong.   Even if their recommendations have evidence supporting them, this does not mean that it’s good evidence as was demonstrated by Dr. Oz’s recommendations on Green Coffee Bean Extract (for more on that, read this).

GreatistStorksIf you have the energy for a quick plug for my book and this blog.  The above is one of my great motivators.  The information I am presenting to you, whether good or bad, is almost always supported by some form of evidence from legitimate research sources.  You can trust these s0urces as much as any.  You often can look them up for yourself.  A physician first and foremost must be trustworthy in their transmission of information to their patients (and in this case their readers).  I personally don’t think I can trust the Doctors or Dr. Oz based on this research.   Check out the article for yourself by clicking here.

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