“Doc, I wanted to ask you about something. I was watching Dr. Oz and he suggested this to help me lose weight.”
She started rummaging in her very large hot pink purse. There were about a dozen bottles of various supplements. One by one she pulled them out and placed them on the counter between us.
Once they were lined up in a neat row, she stared at them, brow furrowed.
“I can’t remember which one it was.”
“Wait. Do you take all of these?”
She looked over at me sheepishly. “Well, yes. He says they are good.”
“How much did this cost you?!?!?”
“I dunno. $200? Maybe?” She shrugged.
“You just told me you could not afford your generic blood pressure and cholesterol medications. Is this why?”
“Uh. Yeah. But he said they are good and I figured if I lost some weight I wouldn’t need the drugs. These are natural.”
“Did you change your diet? Start exercising?”
“No.” She looked incredulous.
“Look. He is full of crap. Here is an article discussing that fact.” I provided her with a copy of one of the many articles summarizing research published in the British Medical Journal here showing that over half of what he is saying has no supporting research. “Furthermore, he had to testify before congress last year because of the dubious nature of his claims.”
I tell patients all day long they have been had. They don’t like hearing it. Often, they are angry with me for debunking. Who doesn’t want that magic pill the quick solution to all that ails us, or at least will make us lose enough weight that we look good doing it? I shatter dreams.
The magic pill does not exist. It will never exist.
Does Dr. Oz know or even care that this woman’s blood pressure was out of control? That she had stopped taking her cholesterol medications for months because of something he said? That countless others do the same, wasting their hard won earnings on things that are not going to work? Does it matter to him that I waste tons of valuable time on a daily basis fighting his snake oil claims?
That does not mean that all supplements are bad. There is an increasing amount of data supporting some and refuting others. More needs to be done.
Admittedly, he is human. He is susceptible to greed and fame just like the rest of us. Truth be told, if I had been singled out to be THE ONE I probably would have succumbed. I have been on TV. Once. (Read about “The Boob Tube” here if you need a good laugh.)
I get less and less of this blind following from patients now. Hopefully that means Dr. Oz’s time has come… and gone. Sadly, there are plenty of others ready to take his place. I prefer treating conditions without drugs if possible, and there is nothing I celebrate more than taking someone off of meds, but sometimes they are necessary.