Data Mining The Dr. Oz Show #NATMEDWEEK2016

Note: this post is part of a series that examines the fallacies of naturopathic and alternative medicine. For background, see here.

The Dr. Oz Show is an archetype of pseudoscience and quackery, giving a voice to those who spread bad health advice over the years. It also has a structured website that makes it easy to grab info from.

So, I wrote a quick script to scrape the details of all 910 show episodes through this week from the site, as I couldn’t find them elsewhere. This database is available here. Please feel free to republish in other formats to make them more searchable. They include air date, episode titles, and guests who appear in each episode. Here is a word cloud base on the episode titles. Top words make for a perfect Oz-ian title “Dr. Oz’s new secret health food that you need to know“.

article_wordcloud

1,846 different guests have appeared on his show. Who appears most often?

Guest Number of Appearances
Mark Schatzker 20
Elisabeth Leamy 20
Dr. Mark Hyman 19
Tia Brown 18
Dr. Michael Roizen 14
Dr. Sanjay Gupta 13
Ashley Koff 13
Dr. Andrew Weil 11
Dr. Michael Breus 11
Dr. Mike Dow 11

Note: some appearances may be from show replays.

Most of these people have notable records of pseudoscientific ideas. Of the names I recognize, Mark Hyman is known for his promotion of “functional medicine” and anti-vaccine tendencies, never mind his books about detox, revving up the metabolism, eating fat to lose weight, or his many blog absurd posts that do things such as recommend eating garlic instead of getting the flu shot. Michael Roizen is Dr. Oz’s chief medical correspondent, which is really all that needs to be said. But here’s an excerpt on his thinking:

I think it’s likely that future tests and studies will continue to show the relationship between health and prayer. That said, this kind of unexplained energy we feel is the next big frontier in medicine. That is, we define life at the level of the cell. As long as the membrane maintains an energy gradient between the inside and outside world, our cells are alive. When you aggregate cells into organs and then put these in the right spot to make a human, you have life. That’s why we’re interested in adjusting energy in the body through such vehicles as acupuncture, homeopathy, and hard-to-explain methods like reiki and prayer. After all, everything that matters in life – like love – can’t always be measured with blood, machines, and complex calculations. They’re measured in the way you live.

It’s a nice feel-good sentiment but acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki, and prayer all have been shown to be no better than placebo treatments. There is no mystical “energy” that we can adjust for health. Ashley Koff sells detox products and promotes unscientific ideas about GMOs. Andrew Weil is a well known long time “integrative medicine” practitioner whose pseudoscientific record is too extensive to summarize. And this is just in the top 10 of guests.

I also scraped 560 articles from doctoroz.com for titles and authors. The database is available here for anyone to explore. Since it is naturopathic week, let’s look at a few articles by naturopaths:

  • “The Best Teas for Teatoxing That Won’t Cost a Fortune”, which makes claims that tea can reduce bloating, cravings, constipation, boost metabolism, and detoxify you.
  • “Best Natural Antidepressants”, which is frightening as hell because it promotes unproven “natural” products for depression instead of well-studied drugs.
  • “Natural Prescription Alternatives”, similarly promoting unproven herbs for serious conditions.
  • “Colonics: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, which flirts with the old claim that we are full of toxins that need to be flushed out.
  • “Eat Right for Your Type”, which promotes a naturopath’s book claiming we need to eat depending on our blood type.
  • “Anti-Aging Supplements”, which claims you can reverse wrinkles, varicose veins, hair loss, arthritis, etc with unproven natural products.

To these authors I would suggest some additional colonics, because they’re so full of shit.