The Oz Phenomenon

Nicky Bennett and Kelsey Masciola

It seems as though we cannot make it through one day without a client asking about something they saw on Dr. Oz, most commonly regarding the supplements he recommends.

As dietitians, we are trained to be evidenced based and use research to support the information we provide to clients.  Therefore, we decided to set up a challenge for ourselves to watch two weeks of Dr. Oz episodes and analyze the supplements he recommended.

Over the course of two weeks he mentioned 61 different supplements!  Initially we were overwhelmed with how to discuss this through a blog. Do we discuss the science? Do we discuss the cost? Do we discuss the effectiveness of supplement? Since reading research papers (if there even is any) on 61 supplements seemed like a daunting task, we decided to focus on the practicality.

Practicality Issue #1: The Numbers: The most obvious issue with all the supplements he recommends would be the number of supplements! If you were an avid Dr. Oz follower, over the course of 2 weeks you would start adding 61 supplements to your daily routine.  If we were to assume that most of us are awake for 16 hours a day, you would need to take 3.8 supplements an hour to fit them all into your day.  Moreover, if you start introducing this volume of supplement how do you know which one is making a difference?  With any supplementation it is always important to establish a base line first then introduce only one supplement at a time. This way you are able to identify if the supplement is or is not making a difference.

Practicality Issue #2: Cost: We often discuss amongst our team the cost of these supplements and what people are willing to pay to lose weight without making positive lifestyle changes.  The average cost of these supplements was $10.00, if you were to take all the supplements he recommended that would be $6,100.00 per month.  Personally we would rather spend that money on a gym membership, a bike, cooking classes, a shopping spree ….

Practicality Issue #3: Safety: Drug/nutrient interactions occur when two or more drugs/supplements are taken together and can result in serious injury or harm.  In Canada, not all supplements found in health food stores are regulated. This means that the amount of the active ingredient may vary from batch to batch, but more importantly it means that there could be other ingredients in the supplement which you may not know you are taking.  In two weeks Dr. Oz has recommended 61 supplements without mentioning any potential interactions they may have with medications or other supplements. If you do plan to take supplements, we recommend talking to your pharmacist about any potential drug/nutrient interactions that may occur.

Practicality Issue #4: False Hope: In our eyes Dr. Oz’s excessive reliance on supplementation use provides false hope to the audience.  One would think that you could trust a Medical Doctor to provide recommendations which should produce the results we are hoping for, but in this case Dr. Oz’s recommendations are deceiving.  Many of the research papers that he quotes are small studies based on animal models (i.e. mice), not humans! Therefore, there has been no evidence to support that the supplement will work on a human in the same way it did the animal model.

Also remember that Dr. Oz said to millions of people at the same time that they needed this supplement. But everyone’s body, lifestyle and weight challenges are unique!

Take weight loss for example, (most of the supplements Dr. Oz recommends are to help people lose weight.) Sounds simple right; if you need to shed a few pounds, pop a pill. Yet most people recognize that it is a more complicated issue that just eating less and moving more.

Whenever we see clients for weight loss, we look at not just at the food but also; the relationship with food, health status, eating environment, exercise routine, financial status, sleep routine, stress and support network.  As trained professionals we will be able to identify triggers that lead to less healthier patterns of eating, education you on why it is happening and support you to overcome it by helping you to set goals and change your current lifestyle.  We know this does not sound easy as easy as taking a pill, but if you want to see change you must first identify what is triggering the unhealthy habit, and then learn how to correct it.

While we are not against supplements, we sometimes recommend them but only to supplement an already healthy diet. Dr. Oz makes huge claims, but the fact he just recommends them reinforces people’s poor habits. With our clients we constantly strive for food first, then a supplement if needed.