Friday, January 30, 2015

Who to Trust in the Age of Media Marketing

This past September, a guest on the Dr. Oz show claiming that green coffee bean caused rapid and dramatic weight loss without diet or exercise was ordered to pay out $9 million for false claims. As you'll see in this news article, Dr. Oz’s guest, Lindsay Duncan, and his two companies were manufacturers of said products.  

On the one hand, the FTC’s witch hunt doesn’t always discriminate against those in the industry who are doing things right and those who aren’t.  They are, after all, a government entity closely related to the FDA, and the FDA is partially funded by drug companies.  However, in this case, I think they got it right.  

Unfortunately, many patients and lay people are trusting online marketers and media darlings for their health information, not realizing that media personalities are entertainers mostly, even the ones whose titles are "doctor."  They have shows to do and audiences to attract.  And not only do they get paid handsomely for hosting those shows, but they also sometimes get kickbacks on the products they promote (not necessarily referring to Dr. Oz).  

These marketeers and media personalities do the same thing as the entire media and news industry does, which is promote hype in order to sell a program and/or a product.

If you don't believe that statement, let me share a statement that a news anchor shared with me once.  I was at dinner with her and her husband, and I asked her a pointed question.  I said, "Why is it that the news is mostly bad news?"  She answered in surprisingly honest fashion: "Because we have a saying in our industry: Bad news is good news, and good news is no news."  Translation?  The media can hype bad news and make it sell.  But good news can't be sensationalized like bad news, so it's usually ignored.  (Not to mention the strong and obvious worldview slant of most of the news media, but that's a subject for another day.)

So then, can we trust the media with reporting responsibly about health-related issues?  Probably not.  And can we trust media superstars who are being paid to sell programs that sell?  Same answer.  

The embarrassing Dr. Oz incident with his guest, Lindsay Duncan, is a glaring example of the truth of my statements above.  People with significant health challenges will self-diagnose based upon misleading and questionable statements made on these programs and are disappointed and disillusioned when the claims don't pan out, or, worse yet, worsen their problems.  

Any physician reading this post would do well to educate their patients on the danger of trusting the media, Hollywood, and online resources with their health.  That's what doctors are for. (Holistic and complementary medicine practitioners, which would include chiropractors, medical doctors, nurse practitioners, naturopaths, osteopaths, and some compounding pharmacists, etc, would be my recommendation here.) Doctors do an examination, provide a report-of-findings, and then prescribe products or protocols that are in keeping with the personalized needs of each patient.  

Lastly on this subject, it was determined by the FTC that the "research" cited by Lindsay Duncan on green coffee bean extract to promote rapid and effortless weight loss was flawed.  Again, no surprise, as this goes on all the time in our industry and in the drug world.  I will remind my readers that any product manufacturer can make all kinds of impressive claims and create all kinds of impressive-looking marketing material and product packaging.  But that does not equate to real science.  

Better to trust product lines who are pioneering real research on finished products with real people in a real clinic and publishing reliable scientific papers in trusted publications.  I only know of one product line doing that.  :-)

(Go here for more on determining quality in supplements.)