How To: 5 Reasons You Shouldn't Trust TV Doctors

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Trust TV Doctors

With the countless daytime talk shows starring and featuring doctors, nurses, and other medical specialists, discovering new ways to live a healthy life is just a remote click away. Although their shows might draw you in with incredible facts and mind-blowing secrets to weight loss success, it's important to take each televised recommendation with a bit of suspicion—most of these familiar faces aren't exactly telling the truth.

Expect Deception

Doctors with popular television shows, like Dr. Mehmet Oz's self-titled production and the cast of The Doctors, seem to offer their viewers valuable medical advice. After all, these professionals are true, practicing doctors. Unfortunately, however, these expert doctors and surgeons aren't always telling the truth.

As Christina Korownyk proved in a recent research study, TV doctors dispensing advice can be as problematic as listening to the medical recommendations of celebrities. After watching nearly 80 episodes of both The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors and analyzing their suggestions, Korownyk discovered that there are significant issues with the advice shared on both shows.

1. There's Very Little Evidence Backing Their Claims

Most of the time, the doctors sharing "expert" advice on our TVs aren't offering medically sound information. Instead, they're offering tips and tricks that are backed with a little evidence, and as much as two-thirds of their information has zero scientific basis.

Image by The Doctors/CBS Television

In her research study, Korownyk examined whether TV doctors' claims fit into one of three categories: evidentiary support, contrary support, or none at all. She discovered that, of the recommendations made on The Dr. Oz Show, 39 percent had zero evidence. The Doctors didn't fare much better, with 24 percent of their advice failing to produce medical or scientific support. For both shows, as much as 15 percent of their advice fell into the "contrary support" category.

This means that about half of the suggestions, tips, and information shared with viewers are either not medically sound or have been contradicted.

2. They're Promotional Vehicles

To the average person, a doctor's jargon and diagnosis can sound like a foreign language. Luckily, TV doctors share information and suggestions with viewers in a relatable, exciting way—except there's a problem with their presentation. They aren't trying to help you live a healthier life, but are instead hoping to sell you a product or two.

As Steven Novella of Science Based Medicine writes, televised doctors are meant to entertain. Dr. Oz and others like him are tasked with making health and science exciting enough to catch your attention.

Image by The Dr. Oz Show/Sony Pictures

When these TV doctors increase in popularity and capture a huge audience, they gain influence as well—and who better than to sell products than a medical expert who's trusted by millions? Novella points out that Dr. Oz and other TV medical experts package both medical advice and items they're hoping to sell. In the hopes of achieving a healthier lifestyle and reaping the benefit promised by these doctors, the public is willing to try or buy what they suggest.

Yet not one onscreen doctor discusses potential conflicts of interest when speaking before their audiences. Viewers have no idea why Dr. Oz might be promoting herbal supplements; they just assume that the advice he offers is in their best interest. Meanwhile, the multivitamin you've been adding to your smoothies is earning your favorite TV doctor cash on the side.

3. Only One-Third of the Advice Is Believable

It's bad enough that Dr. Oz and his counterparts on The Doctors don't offer recommendations with medical proof. Many of us who tune into their shows didn't spend years earning our MDs. As a result, we're more likely to believe whatever they suggest. Yet these doctors make claims that are literally so unbelievable, we tune out.

Image by The Dr. Oz Show/Sony Pictures

In Korownyk's study, the believability of The Dr. Oz Show and The Doctors was measured alongside other facets. The findings indicate that the two shows share advice that's too far fetched for anyone to follow. Approximately half of The Doctors suggestions were deemed believable, while only one third of Dr. Oz's were considered the same.

If their recommendations aren't even believable, viewers run the risk of trying out advice that not only lacks evidence, but is also completely fabricated.

4. There's No Such Thing as a Miracle Cure

We've all seen the internet ads claiming to help us lose inches fast, or recipes and fad diets that supposedly melt extra pounds away. Yet there's a reason all of these quick fixes fail: they just aren't true. Similarly, TV doctors don't have the answer or magic cure either.

Image by The Dr. Oz Show/Sony Pictures

On his show, Dr. Oz often grabs the audience's attention with the promises of "miraculous" cures, supplements, and habits. As Scott Gavura of Science Based Medicine points out, Dr. Oz has a track record of wooing fans of the show with incredible weight loss tips that are truly too good to be true.

Earlier this year, the prominent TV figure and doctor came under fire for touting supplements with selling phrases that led viewers to believe one tiny herb or pill could change their body. To advertise the power of green coffee extract, Oz said, "You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they found the magic weight-loss for every body type." When it came to promoting raspberry ketone, he claimed, "I've got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat."

Image by The Dr. Oz Show/Sony Pictures

Korownyk's previously mentioned study also proves that Dr. Oz is offering his viewers nothing more than empty promises. Both Oz and The Doctors cast share advice that's ineffective—only 17 percent of Dr. Oz's recommendations offered true benefits, while The Doctors fell at 11 percent.

5. They're Wrong More Often Than Not

Finally, there's one reason to avoid TV doctors' recommendations more than any other: they give terrible advice. More often than not, the suggestions you see onscreen are both incorrect and potentially harmful.

C2C Journal discusses countless examples of Dr. Oz's bad advice. Not only does the famous doctor sell his suggestions with confidence and conviction, but he blatantly disregards years of medical research that prove his recommendations to be problematic.

For example, C2C points out that one of Dr. Oz's most common healthcare tips is the use of multivitamins. With claims like "A multi ensures that you get all the essential vitamins and minerals recommended for each day, keeping your engine running smooth and adding protection against chronic illnesses such as breast cancer, colon cancer and heart disease," Dr. Oz convinced his audience that the simple act of adding vitamins to their diet would drastically improve their health. Yet studies dating as far back as 2006—three years before Oz's show premiered—show that there is no benefit from multivitamins, and that they offer zero protection from the onset of cancer.

Image by YuMaNuMa/Flickr

In fact, rather than simply acting as a placebo, Dr. Oz's vitamin recommendation could have increased his viewers' risk of death. C2C states that recent studies show multivitamin usage not tailored to an individual's specific needs could lead to death.

The potential danger of following the medical advice dispensed on television shows is clear: when you do as suggested, you run the risk of harming yourself.

Viewers Shouldn't Try TV Doctors' Tips at Home

While Dr. Oz and other television doctors might be interesting and engaging to watch, it's a healthier idea to change the channel. Don't allow yourself to get swept up in promises of miracles, quick cures, and baseless "research"—taking this bad advice could lead to greater health problems later on.

For the best recommendations, check in with a doctor who doesn't star in their own show, but rather is familiar with you and your medical history. Oh, and don't be afraid to ask for that all-important evidentiary support.

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Cover image via The Doctors/CBS Television

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