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How Dr. Oz Became Television’s Least Reliable Doctor

Dr. Oz chalked up 13 seasons between 2009 and its finale in January 2022. Of the 835 episodes, a little over 30% included content about weight loss, diets geared toward weight loss, weight loss “tricks” and supplements, or “obesity.” The remaining episodes are a veritable cornucopia of reality TV bullshit, like a segment about whether there’s arsenic in apple juice (no, there isn’t) and an interview with the Tiger King, for some reason. Why was a retired cardiothoracic surgeon interviewing Keke Palmer about anxiety? Why were there episodes about “social media pranks” and multiple discussions about chicken nuggets?

Maybe most absurd is that, throughout his 13 seasons, Oz peppered in a handful of episodes about anorexia, women “dying to be thin,” and interviews with famous people about their disordered eating. Hard to imagine why women feel so much societal pressure to be thin when they’re watching episodes titled “How to Get Your Fat to Eat Itself” or “Fasting in Real Life: Can a Mini Fast Help You Lose Unwanted Fat?”

While Oprah certainly had a focus on weight loss and tips ‘n’ tricks for getting skinnier, The Dr. Oz Show often highlighted supposedly easy but actually impossible ways to lose weight. “This miracle pill can burn fat fast,” Oz said in one segment. In another, he promoted “the missing piece of the weight loss puzzle” in the form of supplements: sage leaf tea at breakfast, alpha-lipoic acid at lunch, maitake mushroom extract with your snack, and the “satiating supplement” known as glucomannan at dinner. (This last one, to be clear, is just fiber.)

By 2014, Oz’s flimsy recommendations turned him from just another television doctor into a Senate subcommittee target. Oz was called to testify in a hearing about “protecting consumers from false and deceptive advertising of weight loss products,” and Oz, though not the only proponent of dubious fixes, was certainly a symbolic figure for the Senate to criticize. “People want to believe they can take an itty-bitty pill to push fat out of their body,” Sen. Claire McCaskill said to Oz. “I know you know how much power you have. I know you know that. You are very powerful, and with power comes a great deal of responsibility.”

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