It’s tough to be health conscious these days. Between research studies that seem to contradict each other and inaccurate headlines, it can be difficult to know what information to trust when it comes to improving your health and fitness. Adding to the mix is pseudoscience—the practice of peddling “miracle cures” or faulty science, often on high-visibility platforms like TV talk shows.
Enter Dr. Mehmet Oz. The celebrity doctor rose to popularity in 2004, soon after appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah, who called Oz “America’s Doctor,” has featured the doc several times over the years. In 2009, Dr. Oz got his own show—and that’s arguably when his health advice became a lot dicier.
Dr. Oz is undoubtedly approachable. He’s a talk show personality, decked out in scrubs, talking to viewers about the latest miracle weight loss drugs or unlikely sources of cancer. But a lot of what makes Dr. Oz so approachable is the anecdotal element present in his medical advice.
That same penchant for storytelling has also landed Oz in the hot seat. In 2014, Dr. Oz was required to defend his health claims before Congress. A few months later, the BMJ published an observational study stating many of Dr. Oz’s recommendations were baseless claims. And the Internet has long been obsessed with debunking the doctor’s “pseudoscience,” which seems to become more pronounced as his ratings stay sky-high.
Here’s a list of some of the craziest claims the TV doctor has made throughout the years—which, it goes without saying, you should heed with caution.
Raspberry ketones can make you lose fat
During a raspberry ketone segment, Dr. Oz told audience members that the substance stimulates the release of norepinephrine into the bloodstream. Norepinephrine is a hormone released during life-threatening situations. Dr. Oz claims that the ketones in raspberries raise glucose blood levels, providing enough energy to trick the body into surviving without thinking about food. The doctor also claimed that ketones help “get your metabolism where it needs to go.”
After backlash from all directions, Dr. Oz has since removed the ketone segment from his online catalog. But you can still find it on YouTube. Simply put, there isn’t sufficient evidence backing Dr. Oz’s claim about raspberry ketones.
Pure green coffee
Another claim that landed Dr. Oz in hot water involved pure green coffee beans. Touted as a magic weight-loss solution for every body type, green coffee beans contain a substance called chlorogenic acid, which could have an effect on metabolism and blood sugar in the body.
However, Senator Claire McCaskill accused Dr. Oz of selling “false hope” to viewers by promoting supplements he knew were ineffective. Dr. Oz admitted to using “flowery language” during his segment on the supplements, but still emphasized that he believed the products to be effective.
A small study published in 2012 found that chlorogenic acid could, in fact, help people lose weight. But a subsequent study in 2013 found that although the beans boosted insulin resistance, they didn’t have much of an effect on body weight. Green coffee beans may have some health benefits, but they have not been proven by the FDA to be a useful weight-loss tool.
Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) actually filed a lawsuit against the makers of Pure Green Coffee. The suit accused the company of lying to consumers about the benefits of their product. Eventually, suppliers settled with the FTC for $9 million.
Red palm oil for Alzheimer’s disease
In 2013, the television personality touted red palm oil, a substance rich in vitamin E, as the miracle solution of the year. Dr. Oz told fans that the oil could prevent diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, despite an alarming lack of evidence to back these claims. While there is plenty of information out there about coconut and red palm oil for countless afflictions, no research links the ingredient definitively to dementia prevention.
A cure for the common cold
Scientists have been looking for a definitive cure for the common cold for ages, but Dr. Oz claims to have found it. According to the good doctor, the cure for the common cold has been hiding among us all along, in Umckaloabo Root Extract.
Little is known about the effects of this root on the common cold, and medical professionals cite concerns about unwanted effects of taking it for this purpose. The National Institutes of Health has stated there is minimal evidence that the plant can shorten the duration of a cold. However, the root does have proven side effects that include an upset stomach and bowel issues.
Another review found that there could be some minimal benefits associated with this root for the common cold. Unfortunately, there have also been countless reports of its adverse effects. One case, for example, suggested the extract could cause liver damage. For that reason, doctors recommend patients with existing liver conditions avoid the root altogether.
Apples are teeming with arsenic
In September 2011, Dr. Oz personally reviewed a selection of popular apple juice brands to see which ones contained arsenic. The doctor looked at more than 50 brands of juice and found that all of them contained a high level of arsenic, a chemical best known for its use in Victorian murders.
When Dr. Oz shared his findings on live TV, he was met with—you guessed it—a ton of backlash. Juice companies were understandably upset that Dr. Oz caused parents to panic, and the FDA had no choice but to chime in, stating the arsenic in apple juice is an organic compound that differs from the deadly poison.
A soapy cure for restless legs
Restless leg syndrome (RLS), that curious condition that makes legs twitch and move uncontrollably at night, is a frustrating affliction that makes it difficult to sleep.
Dr. Oz has claimed that using lavender soap can make RLS symptoms more manageable. Sure, using lavender soap isn’t going to hurt you, but there are no peer-reviewed studies to back the claim that lavender soap relaxes RLS.
Communicating with the dead can save your life
Perhaps the single strangest claim of the bunch, Dr. Oz interviewed the medium/psychic Char Margolis on several occasions to discuss the connection between our relationship to the dead and our overall health. Dr. Oz claimed that participating in séances can allow people to achieve “a different type of consciousness” during their interactions.
These connections with the dead, Dr. Oz told his captivated audiences, can reduce stress by helping people make peace with loved ones who have passed away. While there’s nothing wrong with trying unconventional methods of coping with loss, this simplified explanation immediately raised red flags. As did his use of brain scans to back his claim.
Dr. Oz showed the audience before-and-after brain scans, reported to illustrate brain activity of a psychic communicating with the “other side.” These scans were performed with an EEG, which merely shows relative activity in different areas of the brain, and were only taken once before and once during the readings. The images were unclear and didn’t reveal much about what was happening in the mind.
In an era defined by more content, and misinformation, than ever, it’s crucial to take health information that seems too good to be true with a grain of salt. Yes, Dr. Oz is technically a real doctor, but for many celebrity medical personalities, ratings come first. Talk to your actual doctor before trying the latest miracle cure that you see on TV or spot in your news feed. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.