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Vaughn: Be cautious of TV doctors

BY VICTORIA VAUGHN | JUNE 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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Chlorogenic acid — you may not have heard of it. The acid, which has recently made headlines on ABC and CNN, can be found in the famous green coffee bean, a health food growing in popularity.

The superstar supplement has captivated people with its “magical” powers to promote allegedly astounding weight loss — up to a pound per week. While the idea is enticing, the current cross-examination facing Mehmet Öz — better known as Dr. Öz — for his seal of approval of the famous bean has caused widespread public worry.

With a little more self-awareness, most people will realize that this shock stems from our reliance on a kind of medical consumerism. People love seeking health-care advice from magazines or shows such as “Dr. Öz” — a horrible mistake, not only because of the detrimental effects ignoring untelevised professional care can have on our health, but also because such advice and endorsements are exceedingly unregulated.

Dr. Öz, though well-educated, makes some seriously questionable claims concerning the green coffee bean. He begins his program by calling the supplement a “magic weight loss cure,” and when unprocessed, can help anyone lose weight without a change in diet or exercise. Even more curious, the group responsible for conducting the research remains anonymous. Where is the lab? Who are the scientists?

The episode fails to mention either of these facts. Katie Jennings, a contributor to Business Insider, cites comedian and talk-show host John Oliver in her article “John Oliver Hilariously Shows Why Dr. Oz Is A Symptom of A Much Larger Problem” to destroy these claims. With Oliver’s hilarious help, not only does Jennings address the supplement’s failure to provide health benefits, but also the spectacular aspect of Dr. Oz’s show. Oliver reduces the program to nothing more than a daytime talk show, saying instead of calling it “Dr. Oz,” it should be called “Check This Sh*t Out with Some Guy Named Mehmet.”

It’s certainly understandable why most people fall victim to TV shows and magazines promoting “legitimate” medical advice. Medical care is expensive. The media are at our fingertips. The populace is obsessed with weight loss. However, some might agree that turning to these media forms for vital advice has more adverse effects. This is largely caused by — no surprise here — the lack of regulation.

This is part of why our health is suffering. We are turning to resources that are not backed by clear evidence or trial. In a place such as Iowa City, it is hard to imagine why. We have access to one of the best medical institutions around, and more importantly, the information is quite easy to get our hands on. The University of Iowa’s College of Public Health makes a point to provide nutritional information online. The website includes numerous hyperlinks that connect you to information regarding resources, research, wellness programs, and more. The point is that this information is no harder to reach than watching TV, and it’s backed by a credible research university. Why not use it?

Media and marketing are becoming more resourceful, so it comes as no surprise that TV is taking a more energetic approach to keep its audience. This coming summer, Öz will be featured in a new TV series called “NY Med.” The show claims to be a behind-the-scenes look into the lives and practices of doctors — a comforting idea to make the audience feel safe and trusting. But who’s to say it won’t be scripted? It may serve as nothing more than a public credibility bump designed to keep viewers listening to their TV doctors.


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