The Dangerous Combination of Television and Medicine: Beware the Advice on Daytime Talk Shows

Many tips from The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors contradict published peer-reviewed evidence

Doctor Wearing Lab Coat and Stethoscope / The Dangerous Combination of Television and Medicine: Beware the Advice on Daytime Talk Shows
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March 29, 2017

If you've ever flipped through the TV channels at home during the day, you've probably seen talk shows like The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors, which claim to feature qualified medical doctors who give advice to their audiences. But how reliable are the recommendations made on these programs?

According to TIME, not very.

In 2014, Canadian researchers analyzed both of these shows and found that only 46 percent of the advice given on The Dr. Oz Show and 64 percent on The Doctors was actually supported by evidence. Fifteen percent on Oz and 14 percent on The Doctors contradicted available evidence published in peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Christina Korowynk is an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Alberta and the co-author of the study.

"The bottom line message is for people to be really skeptical about the recommendations made on these medical television shows," she says. "They should look for more balanced information to be presented, and understand that they need all of that information in order to make an informed decision."

This is not the first time the reliability of advice given by such programs has been questioned. The same year the study was published, Dr. Oz testified before a Senate subcommittee regarding false advertising of weight loss claims. During his testimony, Senator and Consumer Protection Panel Chairman Claire McCaskill asked him about what he says on his sow.

"I do personally believe in the items that I talk about on the show," he responded. "We have to simplify complicated information. We have to make the material seem interesting and focus on the 'wow' factor."

In response to TIME's questions, Oz representatives wrote that the show "has always endeavored to challenge the so-called conventional wisdom, reveal multiple points of view and question the status quo. The observation that some of the topics discussed on the show may differ from popular opinion or various academic analyses affirms that we are furthering a constructive dialogue about health and wellness."

Representatives from The Doctors also responded, writing that their show "was never contacted about the study or the article. Our producers and doctors all do their due diligence to make sure information provided on the show is sound, relevant and timely—often debunking the myriad of medical myths that abound in the media and across the internet."

Dr. Korownyk acknowledges that it is not clear precisely how people are being affected by health advice they get from television, but she says it is clear that they are being affected.

"What we'd love to see is a process on these shows where the evidence is reviewed in a critical manner, and presented in a balanced, objective way so the audience can understand," she says. "As physicians, we are moving toward that, and we'd love to see the broader television personalities doing the same sort of thing."

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