The government is forcing one of Dr. Oz's favorite supplement peddlers to pay out $9 million to consumers after making deceptive and unsubstantiated claims about weight loss products.
Several years ago, you had probably never heard of the green coffee bean supplement for weight loss. But after Dr. Oz featured the supplement on his daily talk show, it became one of the hottest weight loss wonders around.
Now, the Federal Trade Commission just announced a giant settlement with one of the supplement marketers who appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, Lindsey Duncan, as well as the companies he had a stake in, Pure Health LLC and Genesis Today, Inc.
On the Oz show, Duncan made miraculous claims: that the pills could lead to nearly 20 pounds of weight loss — and a reduction of 16 percent body fat — in 12 weeks without exercise. He said this was all backed by science. But he never mentioned his financial conflict of interest in companies that made the pills. According to the FTC:
Shortly after Duncan agreed to appear on Dr. Oz but before the show aired, he began selling the extract and tailored a marketing campaign around his appearance on the show to capitalize on the "Oz effect" — a phenomenon in which discussion of a product on the program causes an increase in consumer demand.
Of course, the science behind the green coffee bean supplements was dubious. There's no good evidence that green coffee beans do anything Duncan claimed, and one of the related studies featured on the Oz show has even been retracted by the study authors.
For this peddling, the FTC went after Duncan and his companies — and they won.
Under settlement, the FTC says, "the defendants are barred from making deceptive claims about the health benefits or efficacy of any dietary supplement or drug product, and will pay $9 million for consumer redress."
"Lindsey Duncan and his companies made millions by falsely claiming that green coffee bean supplements cause significant and rapid weight loss," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, in a press release.
This isn't the first time the FTC has taken down claims made on the show. Last September, the federal consumer watchdog settled another $3.5-million suit against Applied Food Sciences, the company that sponsored the retracted green coffee bean study.
Dr. Oz v. Science
The settlement comes amidst a series of attacks on the science behind the Oz Show. Last summer, senators dragged Oz up to Capitol Hill last summer to berate his bunk weight-loss prescriptions. "The scientific community is almost monolithic against you," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) admonished him.
In December, researchers writing in the British Medical Journal examined the health claims showcased on 40 randomly selected episodes of the two most popular internationally syndicated health talk shows, The Dr Oz Show and The Doctors.
What they found was disappointing but not exactly surprising: about half of the health recommendations had either no evidence behind them or they actually contradicted what the best-available science tells us. That means about half of what these TV doctors say to their millions of satellite patients is woo, and potentially harmful and wasteful woo at that.
If you bought green coffee bean supplements and want to get your money back, you can go to the Ftc.gov website and file an online complaint.