Dr. Oz Goes to Washington
Occasionally, the U.S. Senate calls members of the citizenry who are participating in actions that can potentially harm the American people to speak before a subcommittee. This has happened this with the BP oil spill, the subprime loan scandal and the steroids problem in Major League Baseball. At the end of June, the Senate held hearings on the expanding problem of people offering "miracle" weight-loss drugs that produce few miracles and have not been vetted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It brought Dr. Mehmet Oz, a well-known medical expert and television celebrity, to testify about some of the claims he has made on his show on behalf of certain drugs.
The doctor is in
Dr. Oz has a great platform for speaking about health concerns thanks to "The Dr. Oz Show." It first aired in 2009, and since then it has won two Emmy awards and is viewed by an average of 4 million people per day. He was one of Esquire magazines 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century, and he uses his platform to talk about health concerns and new treatments and medicines to help people combat various health problems. Lately Oz has been bringing on different individuals who claim that they have a miracle drug or supplement that can help with weight loss. Many doctors might tell their patients that the only miracle drug that exists is the willpower to change your diet, exercise and maintain the discipline needed to keep those activities going.
The Senate was feeling very skeptical about some of the claims made on Oz's show and asked him to appear before a subcommittee hearing on weight-loss miracles that are being touted, including the green coffee bean extract and Garcinia cambogia that Oz has backed on his show. He said that green coffee bean "has scientists saying they've found the magic weight loss cure for every body type." Of Garcinia cambogia, Oz said that "it may be the simple solution you've been looking for to bust your body fat for good."
Unfortunately, the veracity of the positive benefits of these wonder drugs has not been echoed by the FDA, and there have been very few clinical tests that show any benefits either.
Backing it up
Garcinia cambogia is an extract that comes from the tamarind fruit, which in its natural form contains niacin, iron, calcium and other nutrients. While these nutrients are good when the fruit is eaten, there can be a danger in taking the pills that contain the extract.
An article in Woman's Health magazine points out that since Garcinia cambogia is a supplement and not a drug, it is not regulated by the FDA. This means that the manufacturer is in charge of deciding how much of the extract each pill should contain. Women's Health cited a 2005 study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology that found a link between large doses of Garcinia cambogia and testicular atrophy.
As for green coffee bean extract, some of the same problems occur. It is a supplement, so it is not regulated by the FDA and none of the findings about its effects have been backed up by independent studies. In addition, the study used by Oz and others to prove that green coffee bean extract works was commissioned in India, used only 16 participants and was written by someone who did not help conduct the experiment. The experiment also did not have what is known in the scientific community as "placebo control." The group that took the placebo, or false pill, also took the other pills being used to conduct the experiment. There was no real control group, so the findings would be suspect to most scientists.
The miracle of hard work
In a series of articles about health ("Is Fast Food Addictive," "What is a Healthy Diet" and "Obesity as a Matter of Public Health") that appeared on this website last year, Dr. Liz Applegate, the director of sports nutrition at the University of California, Davis, spoke about eating a Mediterranean-style diet, getting 30-60 minutes of exercise per day and monitoring calorie intake. Never did she mention a wonder drug.
The biggest secret to weight loss is hard work. It can take a combination of diet change and exercise to truly lose any weight. Even though it's going to take hard work you may not have to go through it alone. There are specialists, such as dietitians, nutritionists, and personal trainers, who can help you make a diet or exercise plan, and guide you on your way toward your goal weight.
Advocating for health
People often look to professionals and experts when they need some assistance. When you need to repair your car, if you cannot do it yourself you take it to a mechanic. When your computer crashes, you take it to the Geek Squad or an Apple genius. When you want to improve your health, you speak to a health care professional.
In his testimony before the Senate subcommittee Oz said that he feels that his job "is to be a cheerleader for the audience." He said he is promoting products that he believes in. "I passionately study them," Oz told the subcommittee. "I recognize oftentimes they don't have the scientific muster to present as fact, but nevertheless, I would give my audience the advice I give my family."
While his passionate advocating of green coffee bean and Garcinia cambogia may have earned him a trip to Washington, D.C. and a seat before members of the Senate, Oz said he was only using his power in order to help. Sometimes, though, the help could use a little help itself. If you have any questions about a new miracle drug you hear about, or want some advice about how to change your diet and exercise properly, consulting different experts can help lead you to a good answer.
"Is the most trusted doctor in American doing more harm than good," Michael Spector, The New Yorker, February 4, 2013,
"Senators to Dr. Oz: Stop Promising Weight-Loss Miracles," James Hamblin, The Atlantic, June 18, 2014 http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/magic-weight-loss-pills-may-not-exist/372958/
"The Dangers of Garcinia Cambogia Extract Diet Pills: What You Need to Know," K. Aleisha Fetters, Women's Health Magazine, Novermebr 15, 2013,
"Dr. Oz Tries To Do Science: The Green Coffee Bean Experiment," Steven Salzberg, Forbes, September 9, 2013,