Dr. Mehmet Oz, an Ivy League-educated cardiothoracic surgeon, isn’t known for dispensing sage medical advice.
To augment tried-and-true diet and exercise, the star of “The Dr. Oz Show” has peddled some bizarre and potentially dangerous cures for everyday ailments, including COVID-19.
And now that Oz, a Republican, has joined the fray in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race, the celebrity doctor’s most out-there advice and treatments are certain to receive greater scrutiny, if not prominent placement in attack ads. Oz has promoted everything from raspberry ketones, berry-red pills promising to melt excess fat, to hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug falsely touted by former President Donald Trump and the right-wing as a COVID-19 miracle cure.
Before becoming a nationally syndicated health influencer, Oz was known as a top heart surgeon with a prestigious faculty appointment and 11 patents relating to heart surgery.
But his propensity for New Age treatments and exaggerated marketing eventually became his calling card.
In 2015, prominent doctors called on Columbia University’s medical dean to remove Oz from the medical school’s faculty. Oz pushed back. Today, he’s listed as the director of Columbia’s Integrative Medicine Center, which combines conventional medicine with nontraditional treatments such as yoga and meditation.
“Dr. Oz is guilty of either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgements about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both. Whatever the nature of his pathology, members of the public are being misled and endangered, which makes Dr. Oz’s presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable,” the doctors wrote.
His opening message this week was about where he thinks the government went wrong in confronting the pandemic.
“The government mandated policies that caused unnecessary suffering,” he wrote in a Washington Examiner op-ed announcing his candidacy. “The public was patronized and misled instead of empowered. We were told to lock down quietly and let those in charge take care of the rest.”
Touting A Malaria Drug ... For COVID-19
Before there was horse dewormer, there was hydroxychloroquine.
During one of his many appearances on “Fox & Friends” in early 2020, Oz encouraged viewers to sign up for a “self-reported” trial of the antimalarial and immunosuppressive drug through his website, at a time when other studies involving the drug were being canceled due to potential health complications.
“They mail you the pills, you start the protocol, tell them what happened,” he told the program’s large cable news audience, which skews older and thus more susceptible to negative health outcomes.
Even with more time to study its possible efficacy in treating coronavirus, there’s been no evidence to suggest the pill should be used on patients with COVID-19.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said there’s no “valid” evidence to show that hydroxychloroquine works against COVID-19.
But that hasn’t stopped off-label use in far-right, conspiracy-driven circles — in much the same way that horse dewormer Ivermectin has become the latest head-scratching alternative to overwhelmingly safe vaccines.
Oz also served as a medical adviser to Trump, who loved to falsely tout the drug as a miracle cure for COVID-19 when paired with an oral antibiotic.
Downplaying COVID Deaths ... While COVID Rages
In April 2020, Oz seemed to suggest that a 2% to 3% bump in the COVID-19 death rate wasn’t significant enough to warrant schools suspending in-person classes.
“Any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into a school where they’re safely being educated, being fed and making the most out of their lives, with the theoretical risk on the back side. That might be a tradeoff some folks would consider,” he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
While Oz was referencing an actual article in the in The Lancet medical journal, he was blasted for comments that implied a doctor condoned sacrificing a segment of the population in order to reopen schools.
“What Dr. Oz is saying here is ghoulish ... that overall mortality will increase 2 to 3% if kids go back to school,” tweeted author Hank Green.
Oz later apologized for the comments and said he misspoke.
Raspberry Ketones ... For Fat Burning
In a 2012 segment on his show, Oz called them a “miracle fat-burner in a bottle,” but there’s little evidence that raspberry ketones are anything more than pretty red pills.
Raspberry ketones give their namesake food their distinctive smell. They’re also present in peaches, grapes, apples and other fruits.
As a weight loss supplement, raspberry ketones haven’t been very well studied. The surveys that have been done show promise, but they used a far higher dose than you would get with normal supplements.
Lavender Soap ... For Leg Cramps
In 2010, Oz joined the chorus of people who swear by sleeping with a bar of lavender soap to cure leg cramps or restless leg syndrome.
Oz even admitted the remedy might sound “crazy” when he introduced it on his show in 2010.
“We think the lavender is relaxing and maybe itself beneficial,” Oz told his audience.
While many people believe lavender is calming, there is no scientific basis for the claim that it cures leg cramps.
Green Coffee Bean Extract ... For Weight Loss
Oz helped a manufacturer of green bean coffee extract — another supplement promising easy and dramatic weight loss — sell half a million bottles of its pills by promoting them on his show.
A marketer for the product, made from unroasted green coffee beans, claimed it could help users lose 20 pounds in 12 weeks without exercise.
Researchers later retracted a study claiming to show the efficacy of the supplement, and the government fined the makers of a green coffee bean product featured on Oz’s show $3.5 million for making misleading claims.
Oz was called in 2014 to testify about deceptive marketing for weight-loss drugs before the Senate — some of the very lawmakers he’s hoping to make his new colleagues.
The subcommittee’s then-chairwoman, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), accused him of deliberately misleading followers, which Oz disputed while acknowledging that some of the claims he’s made about products aren’t entirely based in fact.
“I actually do personally believe in the items I talk about on the show,” Oz said. “I passionately study them. I recognize they don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact but nevertheless, I would give my audience the advice I give my family all the time and I have given my family these products.”
Strawberries ... For Teeth Whitening
One of the at-home remedies Oz has touted on show is a strawberry and baking soda mixture for teeth whitening.
While it’s cheap and easy to whip up, and might appear to achieve results, research shows that remedies like this can actually cause more harm than good.
Red Palm Oil ... For Everything Else
What can’t it do?
Oz proclaimed red palm oil, made from the fruit of the African oil palm, to be the “miracle solution of 2013” that could aid longevity and even ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Palm oil is widely believed to have health benefits and is a mainstay in many cultures. The bleached variety is used in processed foods.