Until Oprah retired from her popular TV show in 2009, her seven million viewers got a steady diet of health tips. She offered some sound advice on diet and fitness, but the program also became a forum for some questionable medical claims.
On Monday, I reported on Dr. Oz's hype for green coffee bean extract as a miracle pill for weight loss. His recommendation generated a buying frenzy similar to the run on coconut oil after Pat Robertson touted it as a treatment for Alzheimer's. Yesterday, I reported on the interesting juxtaposition of Dr. Oz the highly regarded heart-transplant surgeon and Dr. Oz the TV evangelist for miracle cures of dubious merit (http://bit.ly/WMrXdw).
Osteopath Dr. Joseph Mercola manages mercola.com, a popular alternative health website. There, he promotes and sells a variety of alternative medical treatments and dietary supplements.
- has received three warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for violating U.S. marketing laws by making false and misleading claims,
- has called microwave ovens dangerous, claiming that they emit dangerous radiation and that microwaving food adversely alters its chemistry. (The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide says "cooking with a microwave probably does a better job of preserving nutrient content of foods because the cooking times are shorter."),
- has questioned whether HIV is the cause of AIDS,
- has argued that vaccines are dangerous and that they even cause AIDS,
- has asserted that the mercury in vaccines is harmful despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary,
- has argued that children shouldn't be given the flu vaccine since very few children die of the flu,
- has promoted alleged experts like Tullio Simoncini, who claims that cancer is a fungus that can be cured with baking soda.
Mercola gives the lie to the notion that holistic practitioners tend to be so absorbed in treating patients that they aren't effective businesspeople. While Mercola on his site seeks to identify with this image by distinguishing himself from "all the greed-motivated types out there in health-care land," he is a master promoter, using every trick of traditional and Internet direct marketing to grow his business.... He is selling health care products and services, and is calling upon an unfortunate tradition made famous by the old-time snake-oil salesmen of the l800s.
Just because someone is on TV wearing scrubs, doesn't mean you should take what they are saying as gospel. Even bona fide, credential doctors often end up talking about issues well beyond their area of expertise -- Dr. Oz, a heart surgeon, warning about arsenic in apple juice, for example.