The hearing follows a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) crackdown on fraudulent diet products, which focused on a green coffee extract manufactured by a Florida-based company.
Dr. Oz touted the supplement on his TV program as a miracle for weight loss, which, according to the FTC, led to increased interest in the product and boosted sales.
Consumers Are Often Victims of Fraudulent Weight-Loss Products
Mary Koelbel Engle, an FTC official, testified that the agency filed suit over the supplement, charging deceptive claims and promotion. Engle said that according to a 2011 FTC survey of consumer fraud, more consumers were victims of bogus weight-loss products than any other frauds the survey included.
Oz testified that he subsequently informed TV viewers that his name was being used unscrupulously to sell the supplement.
Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, the chairwoman of the Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, said Oz had a role in perpetuating weight-loss fraud through his show.
Accused of Giving People False Hope
“I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true,” McCaskill said at the hearing, adding, “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."
Commenting on the hearing involving Oz, Alissa Rumsey, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in New York, told Healthline, "Dr. Oz is a brillant communicator, and has the ability to do a lot of good educating millions of people via his show. I hope that he will start to focus less on supplements and "magic" cures, and more on healthy lifestyle choices."
At the hearing, Oz is reported to have stated that the products gave people hope to keep trying to lose weight, and that he personally believes in the products he mentions on his show. Oz also told the committee he does use flowery language to describe certain products on his show, and that he believes in these products so much he has given them to his own family.
"My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience, and when they don't think they have hope, when they don't think they can make it happen, I want to look, and I do look everywhere, including in alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them," Oz told the panel.
"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."