June 23, 2014 9:55 am

Why Dr. Oz’s weight loss claims are being investigated

WATCH ABOVE: Under pressure from Congress, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz on Tuesday offered to help “drain the swamp” of unscrupulous marketers using his name to peddle so-called miracle pills and cure-alls to millions of Americans desperate to lose weight.

Celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, dubbed ‘America’s doctor,’ faced a grilling from U.S. senators last week about his weight loss product claims.

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Oz, the cardiothoracic-surgeon-turned-TV-personality, conceded that his language about certain supplements has been “flowery” but he’s promising he’ll improve on what he promotes to his followers. He told U.S. officials that he’ll publish a list of specific products he thinks will help consumers lose weight and get healthy.

“I’ve used flowery language…which was meant to be helpful, but wound up being incendiary and provided fodder for unscrupulous advertisers,” Oz said.

READ MORE: Dr. Oz scolded at hearing on weight loss scams

Oz said that he never endorsed specific companies or brands, but generally recommended some health supplements as weight loss promoters.

“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…you’re very talented and you’re obviously very bright,” Claire McCaskill, chair of the consumer protection panel, told Oz on Wednesday.

“I don’t get why you need to say this stuff when you know it’s not true. When you have this amazing megaphone, why do you cheapen your show?” she asked.

During his appearance at a Consumer Protection panel this week, senators questioned Oz on three specific promises:

Green coffee extract

“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,” Oz was quoted by McCaskill.

Green coffee is the raw or unroasted seeds – or beans – of coffee. According to Oz’s website, they’re cleaned, dried, roasted and ground before being brewed to make coffee. It’s been touted as the latest weight loss supplement.

Online websites were quick to capitalize on his claims.

READ MORE: Is losing 11 pounds in 4 days the real deal?

Following Oz’s episode on the product, a Florida-based company began marketing Pure Green Coffee and claimed that the chlorogenic acid found in the beans could help people lose 17 pounds and cut body fat by 16 per cent in 22 weeks.

The company, according to federal regulators, featured footage from the Dr. Oz show to sell its product. (Oz has no association with the company and received no money from sales.)

Raspberry ketone

“I’ve got the Number One miracle in a bottle to burn your fat. It’s raspberry ketone,” Oz had said on his show, according to McCaskill.

In this case, raspberry ketone is called a “fat burner in a bottle,” on Oz’s website. The site suggests that the ketone – a compound of red raspberries – can regulate metabolism, break up fat in your cells and burn fat faster. “To get the same benefit from the whole fruit, you’d have to consume 90 pounds of raspberries,” the site says.

READ MORE: Canadian doctor explains why diets fail

Canadian Living magazine, in its coverage of raspberry ketone, suggests there isn’t much scientific evidence to prop up these dramatic claims.

WATCH: Addicted to doctor shows on TV? Dr. Mitch Shulman busts some health myths that Dr. Oz has promoted on his show.

Garcinia cambogia

“It may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good,” Oz told his viewers on his show.

“No exercise. No Diet. No Effort,” was displayed on the screen behind him when he introduced garcinia cambogia, according to CNN.

It’s a small, pumpkin-shaped fruit, sometimes called tamarind. According to Oz, extracts in the fruit help to block fat and suppress your appetite.

But a 1998 study that followed 135 participants found that it didn’t help with weight loss any more than a placebo. By 2013, a meta-analysis concluded that the health claims behind the fruit need to be “proven in a larger-scale and longer-term clinical trial,” according to CNN.

READ MORE: ‘What’s your excuse?’ Mom accused of fat-shaming after posting baby-weight loss photo

Ultimately, the Federal Trade Commission in its testimony said that a 2011 consumer survey found that consumers were victims of fraudulent weight-loss products more than any other specific fraud covered in the survey.

For his part, Oz said that he’s never endorsed specific products or received money from the sales. He also hasn’t allowed his image to be used in the dozens of ads plastered on the Internet.

READ MORE: Why diet soda may be making you eat more

“If you see my name, face or show in any type of ad, email or other circumstance, it’s illegal,” Oz testified.

And he’s vowing to be proactive and cooperative in the fight against false advertising.

“To not have the conversation about supplements at all however would be a disservice to the viewer,” Oz said in a prepared statement after the hearing. “In addition to exercising an abundance of caution in discussing promising research and products in the future, I look forward to working with all those present today in finding a way to deal with the problems of weight loss scams.”

- With files from the Associated Press

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© Shaw Media, 2014

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