Last week, I got a surprising email from a science-minded colleague who had recently appeared on The Dr. Oz Show. "They are taking the 'sticking by science' thing fairly seriously," he wrote.
This was intriguing. For years, Oz's health show, watched by millions, has been sharply criticized for promoting bad science and bogus health advice. The Federal Trade Commission had found that Oz's producers did the scantest research on the show's guests, which allowed modern-day snake oil salesmen to appear on air hawking bogus products. In April, Oz's colleagues at Columbia University argued the show was so misleading that Oz's professor position was incompatible with his on-air work, so he should be removed from the university's medical faculty.
But perhaps things were changing. This past summer, Oz had embarked on a "listening tour" with health professionals, in an attempt to understand how his brand of TV medicine affects public health — and how he might do better. If my colleague was right, Oz might well have taken the criticism to heart.
So I decided to investigate, randomly selecting 10 of the 20 episodes of his current season, which began on September 14. And what I found was actually refreshing.
In the past, Oz often promoted miracle supplements and fad foods. Now, in the shows I watched, he was focused more on debunking dubious products, explaining how science works, and urging informed consumerism among his viewers. Even some of the more borderline segments, like one on cryotherapy, had a more skeptical tone than shows of the past.
To be sure, The Dr. Oz Show is hardly an exemplar of scientific thinking. Oz still has a tendency to overpromise bold fixes to complex health problems, and he continues to sometimes mishandle evidence. But to his credit, he does seem to be taking seriously his promise to improve the rigor of his show.
Perhaps the best indication of how Oz's show has changed came on Friday, October 9.
The show started by taking a critical look at the flimsy science, which has gone viral in some circles, allegedly showing that kale is somehow bad for you because it absorbs heavy metals through its roots. (I dissected that myth here.) Oz didn't try to stoke the fears. Instead, he invited Holly Phillips, an MD and medical contributor to CBS News, to calmly explain why worries about kale were probably overblown.
Phillips noted that the studies drawing a link between kale and various ailments were mostly observational and not at all conclusive. Then she offered valuable context for this debate: Americans don't eat enough vegetables, period. Too much kale is the least of their worries when the real concern should be too few greens.
What's more, Oz stressed to his viewers that they should be cautious about many popular health claims they see or hear. "Information is pushed around these days," Oz said, until someone's "mom starts sending out letters and our friend kale started taking a bit of a beating." (This was particularly amusing to me, because I'd often written articles debunking wild claims that first appeared on Oz's show after getting emails from my mom about them.)
Courtesy of: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Transplantation/Transplantation/54066?isalert=1&uun=g906366d4586R5793688u&xid=NL_breakingnews_2015-10-13