You may not like what you find behind the curtain in the Land of Oz

Last year, I shared widespread criticism of Dr. Mehmet Oz in my Daily Dispatch because he used his popular TV show–and his medical reputation as a cardiothoracic surgeon–to promote questionable weight loss supplements. You may be surprised that I would take such a strong stance against Dr. Oz and these supplements.

But don’t be.

I’m all for investigating non-drug, non-surgical solutions to common health problems. But I always tell you when the science for a natural approach “just isn’t there.”

Dr. Oz muddied the water for all of us by allowing an ineffective, unproven weight loss supplement to take center stage on his TV show. His actions cast a shadow of doubt across all alternative or complementary approaches…even in other cases when the solid science is there.

Sadly, once upon a time, Dr. Oz was a well-respected surgeon who knew the current science. But the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) investigation revealed a look “behind the curtain,” and it showed just how little control Dr. Oz had orchestrating his TV show.

I actually served as a consultant to the FTC in the late 1990s when they first started seriously tackling false and misleading marketing practices for “alternative” therapies, including dietary supplements. But in those days, we never saw anything like the Oz fiasco on TV. At least not since the 1939 movie with Judy Garland.

The problems started when Dr. Oz’s producers brought a fraudulent nutritional expert named Lindsey Duncan onto the show to talk about weight-loss supplements, including the infamous green coffee bean supplements.

Duncan calls himself a naturopathic doctor and a “celebrity nutritionist.” He even uses the title “doctor” and dons a lab coat (a bad sign in itself). But Duncan only holds degrees in naturopathy from a non-accredited, on-line entity. And these degrees are illegal to use in Texas, his home state. Plus, prior to his appearance on the Dr. Oz show, Duncan had been charged for misleading and deceptive acts by the state attorney general in Texas.

So either Dr. Oz and his producers didn’t do their homework. Or worse–they knew about Duncan’s past and still considered him a suitable expert about nutrition. Either way, it doesn’t instill much confidence in the “advice” millions of people take from his show every day.

Back to the scandal at hand…

According to the FTC, when Dr. Oz’s producers first approached Duncan to talk about weight loss supplements, he actually knew nothing about green coffee bean supplements. His supplement companies didn’t even sell them. Nonetheless, his office replied to Oz’s producers within hours, claiming he knew all about the product, and in fact, he loved it.

Then the full-scale fraud went into effect, like a scene out of the Academy Award winning movie “The Sting.” The same day Duncan received the calls from Dr. Oz’s producers, his company began buying up supplies of green coffee bean supplements.

Soon after, Duncan appeared on the TV show, touting the supplements.

Unfortunately, Dr. Oz didn’t disclose the extent to which Duncan had a financial stake in these supplements. So viewers assumed Duncan was a completely impartial authority.

As of last month, Duncan and his companies had sold $50 million worth of green coffee bean supplements. The FTC received a settlement of $9 million for this fraud. That leaves Duncan $41 million in the black.

Doesn’t sound like any real justice to me. But what does all this mean for you?

Well, first of all, don’t believe everything you see on TV–even shows featuring supposed medical “experts.”

Second, always be careful about the supplements you buy from any source. As I said last month, it’s important to find a quality source that does due diligence–both in formulating products based on sound science, and in making sure the products are manufactured using the highest quality ingredients and procedures.

Lastly, if you bought any of Duncan’s green coffee bean supplements, you might be able to get your money back. Contact the FTC and file an online complaint.