Washington, D.C.—Television personality Mehmet Oz, M.D., testified in Capitol Hill on June 17, in front of a senate panel investigating how to protect consumers from false and deceptive advertising of weight-loss products.

His television talk show, The Dr. Oz Show, is known for highlighting and popularizing numerous health products, including weight-loss products. Sales of some products featured on his show have experienced dramatic boosts following their airing, creating a ripe environment for unscrupulous marketers to make outlandish claims about their products. His endorsement of green coffee bean extract put him in the spotlight of the senate panel.

Oz was called by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who chairs the consumer protection and is skeptical about his approach with these weight-loss products on his show. “I can’t figure it out, Dr. Oz,” she stated during the hearing. “I get you do a lot of good on your show. I understand that you give a lot of information that is great about health and you do it in a way that is easily understandable…You’ve been trained in science-based medicine…I don’t get why you need to do this stuff when you know it’s not true. When you have this amazing megaphone, why would you cheapen your show?”

Oz feels he is a victim to this situation because he does not profit in any way from the products he talks about on his show. “My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience, and when they don’t have hope, when they don’t think they can make it happen, I want to look, and I do look everywhere, including in alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them,” said Oz.

After the hearing, Oz told the senators he is already looking into altering the way he talks about dietary supplements in a more appropriate fashion.   

In related news, Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, also testified in the hearing. He told the committee, “A number of dietary ingredients in weight loss supplements, when combined with moderate exercise programs and sensible eating, have been shown in well- regarded clinical trials to be safe and effective for weight management.”

Meanwhile, others “make outrageous claims that promise the weight will fall off without changing what you eat, and without exercise.” His group, he stated, is “deeply concerned” about these illegitimate products and supports enforcement action taken against them. Mister also outlined a four-step plan to help protect consumers from these hollow promises. His full comments can be read at www.crnusa.org.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, August 2014 (online 6/19/14)