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January 2, 2013

Slate: Dr. Oz' miracle diet is malarkey

(Continued)

Throughout the episode, Oz maintained his trademark boyish wonder and excitement as he delivered a message many of us long to hear: A pill could help us "burn fat without spending every waking moment exercising and dieting" and even combat "emotional eating." Oz peppered his excitement with some caution: "Please, listen carefully," he said with a shrug of his shoulders and his hands raised defensively in the air, "I don't sell the stuff. I don't make any money on this. I'm not going to mention any brands to you, either. I don't want you conned."

Oz has acknowledged on air that as soon as he mentions a product, manufacturers clamor to get up websites claiming their brand was endorsed by him. They put his face on pill bottles and placards in health-food stores. They link to his show's website and columns. His PR man, Tim Sullivan, told us that with every product Oz talks about, "the next morning I wake up to 50 Google alerts from companies saying 'Oz recommends raspberry ketones.' " He says Oz's legal team prosecutes these unauthorized endorsements "aggressively."

Still, Oz seems to have a penchant for peddling products. Millions follow his advice through the TV and radio, as well as his books, newspaper columns and magazine articles. And examples of his pseudoscience abound.

Take a breaking-news segment about green coffee-bean supplements that "can burn fat fast for anyone who wants to lose weight." Oz cited a new study that showed people lost 17 pounds in 22 weeks by doing absolutely nothing but taking this "miracle pill."

A closer look at the coffee-bean research revealed that it was a tiny trial of only 16 people, with overwhelming methodological limitations. It was supported by the Texas-based company Applied Food Sciences Inc., a manufacturer of green coffee-bean products. Oz didn't mention the potential conflict of interest, but he did say he was skeptical. To ease his mind, he conducted his own experiment: It involved giving the pills to two audience members for five days and seeing what would happen. Unsurprisingly, both women reported being less hungry, more energetic and each losing two and six pounds.

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