It’s another embarrassing development for Emmy Award winning Dr. Oz, the 2011 Most Trusted Voice in Daytime Television. Trust in him is eroding rapidly after he was grilled in a Congressional hearing on deceptive weight loss products in June of this year, and now one of those mentioned potential miracle pills, green coffee bean extract, has had the only scientific shred of credibility yanked from it.
Researchers of the study that supported the ingredient for weight loss have pulled the study from the journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy after they admitted they “cannot assure the validity of the data”.
The company, Applied Food Science, Inc. (AFS), who used this study to promote green coffee bean pills has settled a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission for baseless claims. AFS allegedly paid for the problematic study.
“Applied Food Sciences knew or should have known that this botched study didn’t prove anything,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “In publicizing the results, it helped fuel the green coffee phenomenon.”
The FTC charges that the study’s lead investigator repeatedly altered the weights and other key measurements of the subjects, changed the length of the trial, and misstated which subjects were taking the placebo or GCA during the trial. When the lead investigator was unable to get the study published, the FTC says that AFS hired researchers Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham at the University of Scranton to rewrite it. Despite receiving conflicting data, Vinson, Burnham, and AFS never verified the authenticity of the information used in the study, according to the complaint.
Despite the study’s flaws, AFS used it to falsely claim that GCA caused consumers to lose 17.7 pounds, 10.5 percent of body weight, and 16 percent of body fat with or without diet and exercise, in 22 weeks, the complaint alleges.
According to news piece in the Washington Post, Dr. Oz’s website has been revised to remove nearly every mention of the green coffee extract post-retraction with this exception:
In prior seasons, we covered Green Coffee Extract and its potential as a useful tool for weight loss. Recently the authors of the peer reviewed research paper on which our coverage had been partially based formally retracted their study. While this sometimes happens in scientific research, it indicates that further study is needed regarding any potential benefits of Green Coffee Extract.
Is this a proper response? Hardly. Imagine the number of people who watched that episode versus the number who will come across this minor message on his website! Imagine the dollars wasted.
Millions of people trust Dr. Oz for health advice (mistake number one) and he seems to be caught up promoting quick fixes to difficult problems (mistake two). So he hypes products with dubious efficacy as well as supporting ridiculous notions such as homeopathy, faith healing, and endorsing health mis-information sources such as Joe Mercola and Mike Adams.
The FTC order requires AFS to notify trade customers of the FTC’s conclusion that the company lacked reasonable scientific support for the weight-loss and fat-loss claims it made. They also are fined $3.5 million. Oz just posted the one message, wiped his hands, and goes on as always.
Thanks, FTC, for doing your job. We can’t say the same for the TV doctor.