In the Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 250 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week: straying from the realm of politics and into the world of televised medical talk shows. This is The Two Minute Drill for December 20, 2014.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, often called “America’s doctor,” is one of the most influential medical doctors in America. Dr. Oz, clad in scrubs, breaks down complex medicine and somehow makes it fun. Apparently, people can’t get enough. The Dr. Oz Show is broadcast in 118 countries and reaches millions of viewers in the US. “I haven’t seen a doctor in eight years,” the New Yorker quoted one viewer telling Oz. “I’m scared. You’re the only one I trust.” But is that trust misplaced?
The Explanation (250 or Bust)
In June 2014, Dr. Oz was hauled in front of the Senate’s consumer protection panel, where Chairman Claire McCaskill (D-MO) criticized his segments as a “recipe for disaster.” And now, researchers writing in the British Medical Journal published a study analyzing Dr. Oz’s claims along with those made on another medical talk show, The Doctors. The results aren’t reassuring.
After randomly selecting 40 episodes from each show, the researchers examined 479 individual recommendations from The Dr. Oz Show and 445 individual recommendations from The Doctors. According to the study, the most common recommendation on The Dr. Oz Show was dietary (such as “Carb load your plate at breakfast”), while The Doctors often told viewers to consult a healthcare provider (“Go to your primary care doctor or talk to their nurse before going to the ER to help relieve the load in the ER”). The result: about half of the health recommendations on The Dr. Oz Show had either no evidence behind them or they actually contradicted scientific evidence.
Specifically, for recommendations in The Dr. Oz Show, 46% of the claims were supported by evidence, 15% of the claims were contradicted, and evidence was not found for 39%. For recommendations on The Doctors, evidence supported 63% of the claims, contradicted 14% and was not found for 24%.
These results are not entirely surprising. Dr. Oz is a fraud. We didn’t need researchers to tell us that. It is nice, however, to finally be able to quantify the quackery.
Word Count: 250
The Five Best Things We’ve Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles we read this week:
- AP Psychology. “It’s just sad. They’re not evil, psychological geniuses who just came up with this stuff. Somewhere along the way they lost their moral compass.” The LA Times takes a look at two psychologists’ role in the CIA torture program.
- When Robots Take Over. “Economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology would create as many jobs as it destroyed. Now many are not so sure.” From NYT: As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up.
- Headlining. “By now, everyone knows that a headline determines how many people will read a piece, particularly in this era of social media. But, more interesting, a headline changes the way people read an article and the way they remember it. The headline frames the rest of the experience.” From Maria Konnikova in The New Yorker: How Headlines Change the Way We Think.
- Cuban Diplomacy. “The back-channel negotiations were conducted not by professional diplomats but by two of Obama’s national security advisers, making it clear to the Cubans that the opening was coming directly from the White House.” From WaPo: Secret U.S.-Cuba Diplomacy Ended in Landmark Deal on Prisoners, Future Ties.
- Correctile Dysfunction. “An earlier version of this column was published in error. That version included what purported to be an interview that Kanye West gave to a Chicago radio station in which he compared his own derrière to that of his wife, Kim Kardashian. Mr. West’s quotes were taken, without attribution, from the satirical website The Daily Currant. There is no radio station WGYN in Chicago; the interview was fictitious, and should not have been included in the column.” From Poynter: the best media corrections of 2014.
We were off from The Weekly Column this week. Looking for some more reading? Head over to The Archives, where you can find a link to each article published by Of Politics and Men since our founding in September 2012.