Dr. Oz’s miracle green coffee diet is based on a bogus study, says FTC

Dr. Oz

In June, I talked about how Dr. Oz was “scolded” by the Senate for promoting falsely advertised diet products. He got in trouble for his enthusiastic promotion of products like red palm oil, brown seaweed, and raspberry ketones. When he’s not talking about his second-favorite topic (poop), Oz constantly pushes these various products as miracle fat burners. After he was reprimanded, Oz said he was “accountable for his role.” He did not refuse to stop talking about supplements altogether because this would be “a disservice to the viewer.” Translation: Dr. Oz knows that his audience enjoys the “hope” of miracle diet products, and he’s not about to lose his viewers. Daddy wants to get paid, you know?

Well, here’s some more bad news for Oz. The FTC reports a failed study on one of Oz’s favorite no-diet/no-exercise products, green coffee extract. They summarize the findings of a placebo-controlled study, which concluded that research claims on this product could not be verified. The makers of this product, Applied Food Sciences, Inc. (which made a killing from “Dr. Oz effect”), will pay a $3.5 million settlement for false advertising:

A Texas-based company, Applied Food Sciences, Inc. (AFS), has settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it used the results of a flawed study to make baseless weight-loss claims about its green coffee extract to retailers, who repeated those claims in marketing finished products to consumers.

The FTC complaint alleges the study was so hopelessly flawed that no reliable conclusions could be drawn from it. The flawed study, which purported to show that the product causes “substantial weight and fat loss,” was later touted on The Dr. Oz Show.

The FTC’s settlement with Applied Food Sciences, Inc. (AFS), which sells a green coffee ingredient used in dietary supplements and foods, requires the company to pay $3.5 million, and to have scientific substantiation for any future weight-loss claims it makes, including at least two adequate and well-controlled human clinical tests.

“Applied Food Sciences knew or should have known that this botched study didn’t prove anything,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “In publicizing the results, it helped fuel the green coffee phenomenon.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, in 2010, Austin, Texas-based AFS paid researchers in India to conduct a clinical trial on overweight adults to test whether Green Coffee Antioxidant (GCA), a dietary supplement containing green coffee extract, reduced body weight and body fat.

The FTC charges that the study’s lead investigator repeatedly altered the weights and other key measurements of the subjects, changed the length of the trial, and misstated which subjects were taking the placebo or GCA during the trial. When the lead investigator was unable to get the study published, the FTC says that AFS hired researchers Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham at the University of Scranton to rewrite it. Despite receiving conflicting data, Vinson, Burnham, and AFS never verified the authenticity of the information used in the study, according to the complaint.

Despite the study’s flaws, AFS used it to falsely claim that GCA caused consumers to lose 17.7 pounds, 10.5 percent of body weight, and 16 percent of body fat with or without diet and exercise, in 22 weeks, the complaint alleges.

Although AFS played no part in featuring its study on The Dr. Oz Show, it took advantage of the publicity afterwards by issuing a press release highlighting the show. The release claimed that study subjects lost weight “without diet or exercise,” even though subjects in the study were instructed to restrict their diet and increase their exercise, the FTC contends.

[From FTC.gov]

So there you have it. Green coffee bean extract does not help anyone lose weight, and I suspect that Oz’s other endorsements would also fail FTC scrutiny. CBS points out that Oz will probably suffer no direct consequence after this botched study unless “there was proof that Oz knew the data was fraudulent.” So Oz will skate. Maybe he’ll lose some viewers as a result, but this won’t hurt his pocketbook unless advertisers get angry. Oz needs to tweak his show’s focus soon. How long can he continue to sell false promises on his show, and how long before he promotes a product that turns out to be dangerous?

Dr. Oz

Photos courtesy of WENN

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51 Responses to “Dr. Oz’s miracle green coffee diet is based on a bogus study, says FTC”

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  1. Willa says:

    Gross. Dr.Oz duckface.

  2. LadyMTL says:

    I find it sad that a very skilled cardiovascular surgeon could “devolve” into little more than a money-grubbing shill. Not surprising at all, just sad.

    • Belle Epoch says:

      Exactly! He was apparently a hotshot surgeon and was open to some alternative practices, like having an energetic healer with the patient during surgery. But his ego was his downfall. He turned into a trained monkey for TV. He probably fooled himself I to thinking he was helping people, but he hosted some truly terrible, ignorant, misleading shows.

      Did you know he hates to eat? He drinks health smoothies that taste awful and gets no pleasure from food at all. That’s unhinged right there.

      • Betty says:

        Really? Did he say on his show that he hates to eat? Where did you hear this? It’s sad, if true. Food is so delicious! I wonder if he’s struggled with his weight at some point. I know his daughter Daphne has. I do think it’s strange that almost every episode of his show focuses on food/weight loss. There are so many other issues in the medical world to tackle.

      • Sam says:

        Betty: I remember reading the food comments in a New York Times article where the reporter trailed him for a day. He referred to the Oz diet plan as the “most joyless, efficient eating I have ever seen.”

      • mg says:

        I read the same article. The reporter’s observations of Dr. Oz’s efficient snack habits hardly translate into: “He hates to eat.” To me, his eating habits appear to reflect his commitment to optimum health. He appears to be a remarkably disciplined guy as evidenced by his choice of medical/surgical specialty and his ability to do both the Oz show and continue to practice at least part-time. He has probably been sleep-deprived since his college years. I wish I had a quarter of his drive.

      • Lady D says:

        My son’s dad was in a bad logging accident. The plastic surgeon was an inch up into his top gums hauling out rocks, gravel and tree bark. He lost the ability to taste food. He said eating bacon and eggs was like eating cardboard. He never did get his ability to taste back, it distressed and angered him for the rest of his life. He was able to smell again after about 6 months.

    • PunkyMomma says:

      ^This. Early on, when he was just a guest on Oprah, his shows concerning cardiovascular health were so instructive – no miracle supplements – just eat healthy, exercise, don’t smoke.

      • tealily says:

        I guess you can only provide that message so many times before viewers tune out. What a shame he has devolved into such a whopping douchebag. I had no idea he was ever a trusted authority.

    • PunkyMomma says:

      Sorry. Double post.

    • lucy2 says:

      Yup – looks like he got blinded by the limelight and the cash.

    • Sam says:

      A lot of people blame his wife – but to me, that denies his own agency. I remember when he publicly stated that his wife refused to vaccinate their kids against the flu and that he disagreed with that but that he didn’t have the authority to overrule her. His wife is an energy healer and seems to be extremely heavy into alternative stuff.

      • Anony says:

        Wow how could a surgeon (who would have to be well taught in science) be with an “energy healer” (which has already failed numerous scientific studies and is the placebo affect only)????? Such a strange coupling.

        Also, Dr. Oz has always looked unhealthily skinny to me. I wonder if he has disordered eating. He probably has orthorexia.

  3. Jules says:

    I used to respect this guy. Now he’s just a snake-oil shill.

  4. danielle says:

    He seems pretty sleazy.

  5. Honeybea says:

    I am not a medical doctor but I am a scientist and I find it hard to imagine throwing away my credibility for a few dollars. At the end of the day money comes and goes, but reputation is forever. I guess that’s just some of us though.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      You’re right. He has lost all credibility and respect, and for what? I guess he made a boatload of money, but everyone knows he’s a fraud. I wonder if he thinks it’s worth it?

      • aenflex says:

        I don’t disagree with you at all. But think about it – a whole lot of people still watch his show and gobble his schill right up. An astoundingly large portion of Americans are uninformed, or ill informed and/or completely ignorant. They eat what the TV or Internet feeds them, period. It’s sad.

      • Esmom says:

        aenflex, sadly you are right. These are the same people who think Jenny McCarthy is a credible source on autism/vaccines. Ugh, so depressing.

  6. Honeybea says:

    $3.5million is a drop in the ocean. They probably made that much money while the judgement was being made.

  7. Sixer says:

    Eat something from all the necessary food groups every day. Increase the proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables in your calorie intake. Avoid processed food (and all bloody quackery). Do some exercise.

    Bloody hell! I’m a diet guru! Why am I a) healthy b) a good weight but c) not a gazillionaire?

    Something’s gone Pete Tong.

    • Ag says:

      omg, put up a website and sell your plan for 1000s of dollars. cha-ching! haha

    • Bridget says:

      Worst diet guru ever – where’s your miracle product? That’ll help people to lose weight without moving any extra and not have to change their crappy diets one bit? And gurus always have gimmicks.

      This Dr Oz stuff really bugs me, because he’s not looking for supplements which can actually enhance life (and even that I’m skeptical about because supplements are unregulated by the FAD) but rather insisting that there must be some miracle pill out there. He’s a doctor, he knows that’s not how the human body works, but then again his audience of people that are home and watching TV in the middle of the day probably don’t want to hear that.

  8. embertine says:

    “Known charlatan found to be promoting bogus product: stop the presses!”

  9. Ag says:

    no $hit. i’m shocked. (no, i’m not. he’s a hack.)

  10. Izzy says:

    Really, someone should be holding Oz at least partly responsible for helping to fuel this ridiculous product’s rise in the market. He’s a doctor and a scientist, he holds two patents for cardiac devices, FFS! There is no reason he could not, SHOULD not have insisted on looking at the data from the study, and at least read the study carefully, before shilling that crap on his show. And you know he got paid for it. He’s so brilliant, yet it was the FTC and not he who figured out that the whole study was basically falsified data.

  11. Chris says:

    Oh come on! Decrease calorie intake and increase physical activity! Enough of the psychobabble!

  12. uralmom says:

    I think he is trying to distance himself from all that and work some damage control. I saw a commercial for his new “docu-drama” where he is shown actually being a doctor and surgeon in a hospital setting.

  13. Sam says:

    I have a hard time believing he didn’t know anything about this. Even if he didn’t know about the fraud, he created a whole endorsement around a single study. Anybody with any kind of background in science, social science or statistics will be able to tell you that a single study, unless it’s absolutely groundbreaking, should not be used as a basis for such an endorsement. Good research comes from lots of studies, done over time that contribute to the knowledge base.

    But doesn’t this just re-affirm all the stuff that we already know about Oz? He’s been questionable for a long time now. Plenty of doctors are open to alternative medicine, so I don’t begrudge him discussing it. But he’s completely abdicated any kind of responsibility on a scientific level. I’ve caught episodes in which he addresses the possible benefits of psychics and at no point questioned whether or not they were legit. That really amazed me.

  14. Courtney says:

    Can I be the nutter that thinks the gov’t has it out for alternative medicine/treatments because those industries don’t line politicians pockets the way mainstream medicine and big pharma does?

    • Bridget says:

      Actually, supplements/vitamins are completely unregulated by the government. While they have to adhere to “truth in advertising” and of course would get sued if they were totally negligent, they’re not subject to the FDA. So no government conspiracy there.

    • Sam says:

      You could, but you would be wrong. Particularly the vitamins and supplement industry are incredibly wealthy and have some politicians (cough Tom Harkin cough) in their pockets. Look up the supplement regulation bill that almost passed back in 90s if you want to see an example of how powerful the alternative lobby can be.

    • Anony says:

      Alternative medicine is worse than ‘real’ medicine! At least Pharmaceutical companies have to have their product scrutinized and pass a plethora of tests before going to market. Natural Health Products could slap “Headache cure” on a bottle of manure pills and go straight to market! Even the big vitamin companies are totally unreputable. There have been several studies showing vitamins and supplements containing practically NOTHING that was on the label!!!!! It’s super scary. Even scarier when these are available over the counter and can have negative health affects and people often don’t tell their doctors when it’s a ‘natural’ product. o.O

  15. Carebearvancouver says:

    Ok self confession, hanging my head in shame but it’s the truth- after pregnancy I had trouble losing weight for really the first time in my life and I liked oz. Well I tried the pill along with exercise and healthy diet. The issue wasn’t about for me whether it worked (it didn’t of course). I bought into the bullish….. This pill screws up your bladder ….it was like the pain of having constant bladder inf. without one….My doctor said it was liking drinking tons of coffee…not good for your bladder. He is so bogus I will never watch him and Oprah post Lohan is also dead to me….the shame !

  16. Seapharris7 says:

    Be extremely leery of Oprahand anyone and/or anything she promotes. I cannot believe she still has a huge fan base

  17. Santolina says:

    Dr. Oz was someone people (like me) trusted and he violated our trust. When I saw him at those Senate hearings, I was floored. He looked like a dog who had been hit with a newspaper. I wondered what he was really feeling. “Damn, I got caught,” or “I have to right this wrong.” Well, now we know from the bogus research that it was the former — he was standing on shaky ground and he knew it. Lesson: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Without trust, his career is over.

  18. JosieJ says:

    He is turning into another Dr. Drew. All they care about is money.

  19. ukbound says:

    I love Dr. Oz. He has been very instrumental in spreading alternative medicine like acupuncture. I’m an acupuncturist, so I appreciate what he does.

    The problem was he was trying to have weight loss on every show, because he knew more people would pay attention, since everyone wants a magic pill. It was very irresponsible of him to promote these products. He could have gotten to the root of weight issues by talking about food addiction, 5-htp for serotonin levels and supplements that DO help. There are no magic bullets. If you take supplements to improve your health, it will help lose weight. But, it will not stop you from eating too much if you are an addict, which many people are without realizing it.

    I notice he is not talking much about any supplement these days. It is very sad. He was recommending very helpful supplements before he went off the deep end. If he continues with the party line of just telling people to eat certain foods, I will not continue to watch him. There are so many effective herbal remedies and people need to know about them. It is about saving people from dangerous drugs and helping them to heal. Go see your local acupuncturist for help.. ;)

    • maddelina says:

      My brother in law was a plumber. He said the sewers are full of undigested vitamins. I’m very health conscious and stopped taking vitamins several years ago. I’ve never felt better. Eat well, excersise and try not to stress. It’s pretty simple.

      • ukbound says:

        If you buy crap quality vitamins that are tar based, which is what vitamins from Target and Wal Mart are, you will not digest them. I recommend Garden of Life Raw Vitamins. They are enzyme processed and well absorbed. Most people buy the cheapest vitamins and they already cannot digest things as it is… Buy quality and improve your digestion. You will see a difference.

    • Dani says:

      I completely agree. My cabinet is full of supplements that I take on a regular basis that were advised to me by my naturopath. Many supplements are very beneficial however there are no magic pills with anything (especially weightloss). I think to watch any TV show and take the advice given as gospel is a little naive.

      • ukbound says:

        Dr. Oz is normally trustworthy. He just went off the deep end with the diet crap. I’m sure it increased his ratings. It was such a bad move though. He was a shill. Any evidence that those products worked was skimpy. There is a lot more evidence and research proving that coconut oil or CLA will help weight loss. He didn’t talk about that so much.

    • Anony says:

      I’m very sorry, but a surgeon should not be promoting acupunture. All reputable studies show that acupunture does not do anything better than the placebo affect. The studies showing an affect are generally done in countries where acupuncture is common and they always fail to be reproducable. A large study was done that showed women with infertility treatments showed better rates of conception with acupunture. That study was EVERYWHERE. Well guess what? It has since been refuted…over and over and over again. It’s fine if people want to believe and do acupunture. But a surgeon who had to you know, understand science, shouldn’t be promoting the nonsense. There are many great websites that go into great detail about all the work that has been done debunking acupunture and it’s grandeous claims. Is there anything it cannot cure? I’ve seen it promoted to cure: mental illness, infertility, back problems, arthritis, chronic illnesses, bowel issues, etc. WOW IT’S A MIRACLE!!!! WE CAN THROW ALL OTHER MEDICINE OUT THE WINDOW! Oh wait, no we can’t…because it’s just the placebo affect.

      • ukbound says:

        Wow. How nice it is to have someone tell me that thousands of years of experience is for nothing. If you don’t want to believe it works, you will find someone who will help you.

        Or, you could consider that there are billions served over thousands of years. We do not get the benefit of a placebo effect. People do not believe us until they get better. Open your mind a little. You mind need help some day.

        I’m sure all the hospitals in China that treat people and save them from dire diseases will be glad to know some Western person says it is all placebo… If you would like real research, this a good place to check out: http://www.jcm.co.uk/latest-issue/

    • reba says:

      He is all the more disrespectful for giving a bad name to alternative medicine everywhere. This kind of crap is the reason honest alternative practitioners get a bum rap. Good luck in your practice, I hope the light shines through.

    • jane16 says:

      I love acupuncture. I did the NAET series with acupuncture in the 90s and it cured my terrible allergies. It also cured me of a terrible face rash in one visit. It has immeasurably helped my disabled son in multiple ways. I have friends that use it for pain and have gotten off of oxycontin. I could go on and on. There was a huge article in the LA Times back in the 90s about it, This article showed how Chinese doctors used acupuncture instead of anesthesia. They had an actual photo of a young woman with her chest cut open and looking at the camera and smiling, with an acupuncture needle in her ear. Its really sad that its so difficult to have alternative medicine in this country. We’re like 50 years behind Europe. I blame the drug companies. They don’t want people getting off their freaking drugs.

  20. reba says:

    I thought he was respectable, based on his early days. So, I fell for the green coffee beans. Bought ‘em over the internet. They did not work, of course. The worst thing is that the Dr. Oz spam email I have received ever since is impossible to get rid of since they have ways to get around the ‘rules’ of servers and my Outlook. Now that is really shoddy. Oz used to stand for wonderful. Now all I can think is the Wizard of Oz was a charlatan. Dr. Oz, you should be ashamed of yourself.