Mehmet Oz, MD, is currently running for Senate in Pennsylvania (even though he was born in Ohio and spent much of his life in New Jersey), but chances are you’re probably somewhat familiar with him even if you don’t live there. He has the propensity to be…everywhere.
He rose to fame as a regular guest on Oprah (who, BTW, recently endorsed his opponent John Fetterman), and went on to host his own daytime talk program, The Dr. Oz Show. For years, he also graced the covers of his magazine, Dr. Oz The Good Life, which now appears to be on pause.
Despite the fact that he’s a medical doctor, he’s got a long history of sharing health opinions that are pretty wack. And by that we mean it ranges from not quiiiite accurate to flat-out wrong to potentially harmful, and possibly dangerous.
To be clear, we’re not calling out a couple of instances in which Dr. Oz spoke out of turn: We’re talking about his tendency to repeatedly share misleading medical information for the last decade. And to prove just how far-out some of his advice has been, we put together a list of several of his worst moments.
- He claimed selenium supplements can prevent cancer. In a 2012 episode of The Dr. Oz Show, he called selenium, a mineral found in certain foods, the “holy grail of cancer prevention,” per the Washington Post. But according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there’s actually no solid proof that it reduces cancer risk.
- He said three foods can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, specifically, by “up to 75%.” In 2011, he said on The Dr. Oz Show that endive, red onion, and sea bass could drastically reduce ovarian cancer risk—a claim that so outraged one group of actual researchers, they refuted it in a 2012 article called Reality Check: There Is No Such Thing as a Miracle Food, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.
- In 2010, he implied sleeping with a bar of lavender soap can help combat restless leg syndrome (RLS). Yes, you read that right. As Insider reports, in a 2010 episode of The Dr. Oz Show, he said, “I know this sounds crazy, but people put it under their sheets. We think the lavender is relaxing and may be itself beneficial.” While this one isn’t necessarily harmful, per se, it’s just…incorrect. As one medically reviewed article put it: “There is no evidence that a bar of soap in the bed will help relax your legs…There is no logical reason to place a bar of soap in the bed to treat either restless legs or leg cramps.”
- He was literally questioned by the Senate for endorsing two weight loss products on TV. In June 2014, he appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance during a false advertising hearing. The subcommittee questioned him on why he’d endorsed raspberry ketone and green coffee extract as weight loss wonders. His written testimony violated Federal Trade Commission guidelines by saying certain pills could “melt” fat, according to Politico. At one point during the hearing, former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill told Dr. Oz, “The scientific community is almost monolithic against you.”
- He recommended HCG, a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy, for weight loss. In 2011, he dedicated air time to what he called a “controversial” weight-loss approach called the HCG diet, per the Washington Post. How “controversial,” you may ask? Followers were advised to take a dietary supplement containing human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a hormone produced during pregnancy, and limit their food intake to 500 calories a day (!). This absolutely is as bad as it sounds: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says taking products that contain HCG to lose weight is “reckless.” This 2020 statement from the administration makes its position clear in no uncertain terms: “If you have HCG products for weight loss, quit using it, throw it out, and stop following the dieting instructions.”
- In 2020, he talked up the benefits of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 on Fox News. In a largely incoherent speech just weeks after COVID-19 started spreading widely in the US, Dr. Oz insinuated that hydroxychloroquine could treat people who had become very ill with the virus. Nearly three years after its emergence, there’s still no strong evidence to support the drug’s use for COVID treatment.
- In a recent debate, he said abortion decisions should be made among “women, doctors, and local political leaders.” Pregnant people? Yes—we agree with him there. Doctors? Sure! Local politicians, on the other hand, shouldn’t get a say here.
In addition to the above, Dr. Oz’s campaign has stooped low enough to attack his opponent’s health. In a statement given to Insider by one of his aides in August, his team said: “If John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke.” Another aide defended that statement by saying Fetterman couldn’t stand up for more than 10 minutes, CNN reports. When asked by NBC News if he would ever speak to his own patients this way, Dr. Oz said, simply, “No.”
The above claims (which by no means constitute a complete list) are unfounded at best and possibly dangerous at worst. The bottom line? At a time when our elected officials play a huge role in our everyday health and well-being, Dr. Oz probably isn’t our best bet for public representation!