Should You Trust Medical Talk Shows?

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Should You Trust Medical Talk ShowsMany Americans want to know what is healthy for them, but where should you get general health advice? Should you trust such sources as medical talk shows?

It is no secret that the mass media has a great impact on your health and dietary decisions. The question is whom can you trust?

According to a national survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 72% of Americans rely on Internet-based health advice, which includes the information recommended from the doctors and experts at Doctors Health Press. These are helpful educational resources. But when it comes to medical talk shows, the research isn’t so glowing, which leads us to the topic of today’s article…

Should You Trust TV Medical Talk Shows?

Millions of Americans tune into daily medical TV talk shows. The Dr. Oz Show, which features cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, gets around 2.9 million viewers per day. The Doctors is another popular weekly show. Co-hosted by ER physician Dr. Travis Stork, pediatrician Dr. James Sears, and plastic surgeon and reconstructive surgery expert Dr. Andrew Ordon, The Doctors gets as many as 2.3 million viewers.

These shows have a lot in common. Both shows have won multiple Daytime Emmy Awards, and they provide the viewer with important health and wellness information. Dr. Oz and Dr. Stork are also considered two of the top 100 health and fitness influencers.

One more thing they have in common: they’re both under the microscope in a recent study published in the British Medical Journal.

Study: Not All Claims on Medical Talk Shows Backed By Evidence

The medical researchers from the University of Alberta do not buy the hype surrounding medical talk shows. Their study found that only one-third of Dr. Oz’s recommendations and 53% of The Doctors recommendations were supported by “believable or somewhat believable” evidence.

The researchers randomly selected 40 episodes from both The Doctors and The Dr. Oz Show from early 2013. The researchers found evidence to support 54% of the 160 recommendations identified and evaluated from both shows. Overall, evidence supported 46% of Dr. Oz’s recommendations and contradicted 15%, while evidence wasn’t found at all for 39%. For The Doctors’ recommendations, evidence supported 63% and contradicted 14%, while no evidence was found for 24%.

Should You Believe Everything TV Doctors Say?

As the study concludes, “recommendations made on medical talk shows often lack adequate information on specific benefits or the magnitude of the effects of these benefits.”

Personally, I don’t always agree with medical talk shows. They are a form of entertainment that provides quick medical and health advice. However, I have some problems with the study, too.

For example, the researchers don’t offer specific recommendations for the shows. And it is important to note that the researchers all appear to have a medical and pharmaceutical background, so it is quite possible that there may be a bias toward certain recommendations and natural remedies suggested on the shows; perhaps the researchers wouldn’t recommend them to patients, and therefore they already don’t think highly of what the TV doctors may suggest.

I think sometimes Dr. Oz and other TV medical doctors can be overzealous in how they word the dialogue on the shows. Dr. Oz may recommend a dietary supplement such as garcinia cambogia or green coffee bean extract for weight loss, while he also insinuates that no exercise, diet changes, or other effort is required to be successful.

It is also clear that these well-intended doctors are following a script, and some of their thoughts or opinions may not solely be theirs. After all, these shows fall into the “one size fits all” category of health and wellness. The doctor will speak highly of a particular supplement, superfood, or exercise technique, and proclaim that it should be part of everyone’s lifestyle. However, true health recommendations should be based on bio-individuality and what is best for a particular person.

Do Your Own Health Homework

I have to admit—I do let out a sigh every time Dr. Oz recommends something and millions of people run to the health food store to purchase the “miracle” product. Health food stores even dedicate entire sections for the products that Dr. Oz recommends to his viewers. While it is unfair to fully discredit the effectiveness of the suggestions on medical shows, there is often valuable information that needs to be explored more deeply by the viewers.

Please, make no mistake—skepticism does not mean that you dismiss everything that comes out of the mouths of Dr. Oz, Dr. Stork, or any other TV doctor. But you also should not go out and purchase everything that Dr. Oz or any other medical talk show promotes either. I believe the purpose of TV doctors is to influence people and bring some remedies to the mainstream for further discussion.

Having said that, it is best to take everything you hear with a grain of salt and do some homework on the natural remedies or general health advice suggested by TV doctors. Consult with a holistic nutritionist or natural health practitioner before you take any supplement or make any dietary change. You may also want to do all the appropriate tests with your doctors.

Holistic-minded professionals can often provide additional knowledge about supplementation and specific dietary and lifestyle changes that may not be understood by your family physician. Just be sure to also keep your family physician in the loop.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Korownyk, C., et al., “Televised medical talk shows—what they recommend and the evidence to support their recommendations: a prospective observational study,” BMJ December 17, 2014; 349, doi: 10.1136/bmj.g7346.
Withey, E., “Viewers should be skeptical of advice on TV medical talk shows like Dr. Oz and The Doctors: study,” National Post web site, December 23, 2014; http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/12/23/viewers-should-be-skeptical-of-advice-on-tv-medical-talk-shows-like-dr-oz-and-the-doctors-study/.
Fox, S. and Duggan, M., “Health Online 2013,” Pew Research Internet Project web site, January 15, 2013; http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/01/15/health-online-2013/.

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