The Dr. Oz distraction effect

Tom Rifai, MD, FACP writes:

From my perspective as a board certified internist and Fellow of the American College of Physicians, as well as an expert clinical metabolic nutritionist, I believe there is “macro harm,” i.e., cases in which something Dr. Oz said led to immediate, measurable substantial untoward harm — but there’s also the very significant concern of massive “micro harm,” which may not be measurable in any single person immediately — but is critical from a public health perspective.

Massive “micro harm” might be best described in terms of the “distraction effect.” That is, when Dr. Oz mentions a supplement or unproven remedy of some sort, a huge number of people end up spending significant time worrying about where to get “it,” what the best source is, etc., and being distracted from spending time on the simple — admittedly “boring” — but critically important evidence-based lifestyle factors of movement. These include both exercise and non-exercise activity time and sitting time, as well as focusing on a moderate calorie, primarily whole and minimally-processed plant predominant, low salt-added eating style ranging from Vegan to plant predominant Flexitarian.

Behavior modification specialist docs like myself also get distracted during the clinical office visit by questions from patients on recommendations from Dr. Oz that would be better spent on evidence-based pursuits. In a time crunched medical system, this massive degree of micro harm to society is not irrelevant. I have spent hours upon hours simply trying to counter misinformation from Dr. Oz and getting patients back to baseline, rather than being able to spend time moving them forward on the already very difficult path of therapeutic lifestyle change.

March 21, 2015 | Benjamin Mazer