Dr. Oz and Senator Claire McCaskill hearing – full transcript

This is a full transcript to the exchange between Dr. Oz and Senator McCaskill at the hearing on June 17th.

The video of this transcript is shown below.  You can read my analysis here.

Senator McCaskill: "I can't figure this out Dr. Oz...I get that you do a lot of good on your show.  I understand that you give a lot of information that's great information about health, and you do it in a way that's understandable.  You're very talented, you're obviously very bright. You've been trained in science-based medicine."

Senator McCaskill: "Now, here are three statements you've made on your show:

  1. 'You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they've found the magic weight-loss cure for every body type.  It's Green Coffee Extract.'
  2. 'I've got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat!  It's Raspberry Ketones.'
  3. 'Garcinia Cambogia: it may be the simple solution you've been looking for the bust your body fat for good.'

I don't get why you need to say this stuff, because you know it's not true!  So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?"

Dr. Oz: "Well, if I could disagree about whether they work or not, and I'll move on to the issue of the words that I used.

And just with regards to whether they work or not - take green coffee bean extract as an example - I'm not going to argue that it would pass FDA muster if it was a pharmaceutical drug seeking approval.  But among the natural products that are out there, this is a product that has several clinical trials.  There was one large one, one very good quality one, that was done the year we talked about this in 2012."

Senator McCaskill: "I want to know about that clinical trial.  Because the only one I know was 16 people in India that was paid for by the company that was...at the point in time you initially talked about this being a 'miracle,' the only study that was out there was the one with 16 people in India that was written up by somebody who was being paid by the company who was producing it."

Dr. Oz: "Well this paper argued that there was no one paying for it, but I have the four papers...five papers actually, plus a series of basic science papers on it as well.

But, Senator McCaskill, we can spend a lot of time arguing the merits of whether green coffee bean extract is worth trying or not worth trying.  Many of the things that we argue that you do with regard to your diet are likewise criticizeable.

Should you be on a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet...I spent a good part of my career recommending that folks have a low fat diet.  We've come full circle in that argument now and no longer recommend that.  Many of us who practice medicine, because we realized it wasn't working for our patients.

So it is remarkably complex, as you know, to figure out what works out for most people even, in a dietary program.  In the practice of medicine we evolve by looking at new ideas challenging orthodoxy and evolving them.

So...these are the five papers, these are clinical papers.  And we can argue about the quality of them, very justifiably.  I can pick apart papers that show no benefit as well.  But at the end of the day, if I have clinical subjects, real people having undergone trials - and in this case I actually gave it to members of my audience.  It wasn't a formal trial..."

Senator McCaskill: "Which wouldn't pass...the trial you did with your audience, you would not say that would ever pass scientific muster?"

Dr. Oz: "No, I would never publish the paper, but it wasn't done under the appropriate IRB guidance - that wasn't the purpose of it.  The purpose of it was for me to get a thumbnail sketch of, 'is this worth talking to people about or not?'

But again, I don't think this ought to be a referendum on the use of alternative medical therapies.  Because if that's the case then listen, I have been criticized for having folks coming on my show and talking about the power of prayer.  Now again, as a practitioner, I can't prove that prayer helps people survive an illness..."

Senator McCaskill: "It's hard to buy prayer."

Dr. Oz: "Yes, it's hard to buy prayer, that's the difference..."

Senator McCaskill: "Prayer is free."

Dr. Oz: "Yes, prayer is free, that's a very good point!  Thankfully prayer is free...but I see in the hospital, when folks are feeling discomfort in their life, and a lot of it's emotional, when they have people praying for them, it lightens their burden.

And so my show is about hope.  And I want - and as you've very kindly stated - we've engaged millions of people in programs, including programs we did with the CDC, to get folks to realize that there are different ways - that they can re-think their future.  That their best years aren't behind them, they're in front of them.  That they actually can lose weight.

So, if I can just get across the big message that actually I do personally believe in the items I talk about in the show, that I passionately study them...I recognize that oftentimes they don't have the scientific muster to present as fact.  But nevertheless I give my audience the advice I give my family all the time.  And I've given my family these products, specifically the ones you mentioned, and I'm comfortable with that part.

Where I do think I've made it more difficult for the FTC is that in an intent to engage viewers, I use flowery language.  I use language that was very passionate, but it ended up not being helpful but incendiary.  And it provided fodder for unscrupulous advertisers.  And so that clip that you played, which is over two years old, and I've hundreds of segments since then, we have specifically restricted our use of words.

And I'm literally not speaking about things that I would otherwise talk about.  There's a product that I have never talked about in the show that I feel very strongly about, because I know what will happen.

I'll say something very...in fact we did a show, with yacon syrup, which you did not bring up. It's a South American root that had a big study published on it, I think a very high quality study, where they showed that not only did it help people lose weight but it more importantly helped their health.  It was men and women who were diabetic, done by an academic center down there - it was not funded by industry - and we talked about it.  And I used as careful language as I could, and still there were internet scam ads picking one or two supportive words.

Well of course I support them, I wouldn't be talking about it otherwise, but it still ended up out there."

Senator McCaskill: "Well, I...listen.  I'm surprised that you are defending...I mean I've tried to really do a lot of research in preparation for this trial, and the scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products that you've called miracles.

And when you call a product a 'miracle' and it's something you can buy, and it's something that gives people false hope, I just don't understand why you need to go there.  You've got so much you do on your show that makes it different and controversial enough that you get lots of views - I understand you're in a business of getting viewers.

But I really implore you to look at the seven...and I would ask you to look at the seven list that the FTC put out on "The Gut Check."  The seven...it's very simple:

Causes weight loss of two pounds a week for a month without dieting or exercise; Causes substantial weight loss no matter how much you eat; Causes permanent weight loss, like you said, looking to 'bust your body fat for good'

...if you just look at those seven, and if you spend time on your show telling people that this is the seven things you should know, that isn't magic in a bottle, that there isn't a magic pill, that there isn't some kind of magic root or acaii berry or raspberry ketone that's going to all of a sudden make it not matter that you're not moving and eating a lot of sugar and carbohydrates.

I mean...do you disagree with any of these seven?"

Dr. Oz: "Senator McCaskill, I know the seven, I say those things on my show all the time."

Senator McCaskill: "Well then why would you say something is a miracle in a bottle?"

Dr. Oz: "My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience.  And when they don't think they have hope and when they don't think they can make it happen, I'm willing to look and I do look everywhere, including alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them.

So you pick on green coffee bean extract.  With the amount of information I have on that, I still am comfortable telling folks that if you can buy a reputable version of it...and I say this all the time: I don't sell it and these are not for long-term use.  And by the way, with green coffee bean extract as an example, it's one pound per week over the duration of the different trials that have been done.  That happens to be the same amount of weight that was lost by the hundred or so folks on the show who came on, and half of them got a placebo.  We've actually got fake pills, gave it to half the people, real pills, to the other half, and it's sort of the same thumbnail.  I'm looking at a rough idea.

If you could lose a pound a week more than you would have lost, doing the things you should be doing already - you can't sprinkle it on cubasa and expect it to work - but if that trial data is what's mimicked in your life and you get a few pounds off, it jumpstarts you and it gives you confidence to keep going.  And then you start to follow the things we talk about every single day, including all of those seven items, I think it makes sense."

Senator McCaskill: "Well, I'm going to give time to my colleagues now, and hopefully I'll have a chance to be able to visit with the other witnesses in the next round.

I will just tell you...I know that you feel you are a victim.  But sometimes conduct invites being a victim.  And I think if you would be more careful, maybe you wouldn't be victimized quite as frequently."

Dr. Oz: "Senator McCaskill, those topics you mentioned are over two years old.  I have not been talking about products in that way for two years, and it has not changed at all what I am seeing on the internet, and frankly it is getting worse.  So I completely heed your commentary, and I realize - to my colleagues at the FTC - that I have made their jobs more difficult.  That's why I came today.

I'm cheerleading for this process.  I want to do anything I can to help, but taking away those words doesn't change the problem that's already happened."

6 thoughts on “Dr. Oz and Senator Claire McCaskill hearing – full transcript

  1. Cynthia

    I am 58 years old, I had an injured foot and could barely walk. I was over weight and was eating healthy and as little as I could, and couldn’t lose weight. Then I took a Green Coffee Bean Extract and without exercise, I lost 31 lbs. I was hoping to lose 20 but once the product kicked in and was working for me, I continued and got back to my high school weight with no negative effects.

    I can’t even drink coffee, I’m too sensitive to the caffeine, but a cup of coffee can be from 150 to 350 mg of caffeine and in the green coffee bean I took, it only had 20 mg. of caffeine. I didn’t even feel it. It also improved all of my lab tests at a check up. My blood sugar level dropped from 150 to 180 in the last 3 labs done in 3 years, to 93 and my cravings for sugar and carbohydrates were gone. I began to crave vegetables instead.

    Perhaps Senator McCaskill should find a good Green Coffee Bean Extract and try it for 6 months before she speaks, so she has some idea of what she’s talking about.

    1. katwhitfield

      Post author

      Hey Cynthia,

      I certainly don’t want to deny you your personal experiences. I’m very glad that you lost the weight you were looking to lose, and then some. I’m glad you’re eating healthier and have become healthier!

      However, anecdotes are unfortunately not used in discussion on the efficacy of certain products for a reason. Very often our perspective is flawed, especially when it comes to sensitive subjects like our health and fitness. It’s like going to a magic show: the magician will tell you what you are about to see is a trick, but your eyes still see it the way the magician wants you to – as supernatural ability that defies logic and physics.

      This is why we use studies to discuss the merits of products, rather than just gathering up a bunch of testimonials. Testimonials can be flawed, we’d prefer to use a method that lets us be as close to 100% certain that the product itself is doing the trick, as opposed to say, an unconscious reduction in food intake because you’ve decided you’re going to lose weight at the same time you start taking the pill.

      I’ll never try to take your experiences away from you, and again I’m glad that you’ve reached your goals and improved your health. But one anecdote is not strong enough counter-evidence to the studies showing very limited usefulness. It is always possible that new evidence will turn up, in which case we would change our minds. But for now, the evidence points towards it not being a wise investment.

  2. Atchka!

    Thanks for transcribing this! Wow, what a dumbass. And I like the Green Coffee puppet above. Oz is a fool attempting to cite some small, shitty studies paid for by supplement companies. I can’t believe he’s even trying. He doesn’t even say how long they lasted… odds are less than six months. Good on McCaskill for sticking it to him publicly. He deserves some public humiliation, the snake oil salesman.


    1. katwhitfield

      Post author

      Not a problem, Shannon! Was necessary to actually understand the words coming out of his mouth, haha.

      Yeah, I was uncertain if that was a sneaky Green Coffee advertisement account, but there is no website attached and the email looked real, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt.

      My unsubstantiated theory on why he uses studies is:

      He uses, small, shitty studies so he can say “studies show” – this also gives his audience ammo to fire against any who would criticize his lack of science, and criticize science itself. I could see a convo going down like:

      “Yo, Coffee Bean extract has a STUDY backing it up, so why can’t you science people be satisfied?”

      “Well, that’s not a very good study because…”

      “SEE?! You can use science to prove ANYTHING so none of it matters!”

      Or something like that. I hope that this public spanking has some positive effects. The most I’m hoping for is that maybe he lost a couple of fans over it, or at least some fans will now question things he says. That would be a small victory.

      1. Chris

        There is a dynamic here that was not mentioned–the fact that there are big industrial interests that often steer the ‘science’ into areas that seem to support their dominant products and profitability.
        Small studies that are well-run could be better info for consumers than large ones that are junk science like the meta-analysis of antioxidant vitamins C and beta-carotene done by a team of ‘researchers’ at the Univ. of Copenhagen where all studies where no one died were removed from the survey, even when the vitamins were being assessed for their effect on longevity.

        This is the kind of incredibly deficient garbage put out by some medical researchers and considered as gospel by naive people simply because the researchers have an MD or PhD behind their names. The researchers also did not know, and did not bother to solicit information from more knowledgeable sources–including alternative physicians==that beta-carotene reacts with cigarette smoke to create an antinutrient, which would bias their results even more in the negative direction.

        It is almost as if they had a pre-determined agenda and made decisions, even logically bankrupt ones, to support the industry’s dominant paradigm, which is not supported by good, repeatable, and solid science and is contradicted in 1,000’s of studies dating back at least 70 years.

        Doctors do not receive enough nutritional training to be taken seriously on nutrition unless they have specialized and gotten alternative training in it and pursued it with a professional attitude and mindset.

        If you are well-educated, such as by reading the book, or substantial portions of the book ‘Our Daily Meds’ by Melody Peterson (2008), you will understand that when we are dealing with the pharmaceuticals and their so-called ‘research’ we are dealing with some of the most corrupt companies on earth that are constantly playing a game of overclaiming benefits for their drugs, downplaying serious side effects, or burying them until 1,000’s or 10,000’s die, then quietly withdrawing the drug, or continuing to run it since they can earn more in sales than the fairly light fines sometimes issued based on lawsuits or government action for such malfeasance.

        Dr. Oz is providing some much-needed balance by presenting studies and experiences with herbal and alternative products and approaches in an industry that is a virtual drug-dominated, chemical medicine dictatorship.

        Oz should be given a Congressional Medal of Honor for standing up for good studies of whatever size (very successful alternative products will expect to be attacked by the pharma and medical lobbies) and putting them out in the public vs. 10’s of millions of drug ad hours watched plugging dubious medicine’s, 80% or more of which are based on ‘privately funded’, often in-house trials where a lot of dubious or scurrilous things can, and too often do happen.


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