Why Oprah is not your doctor

Live Your Best Life Ever! Wish Away Cancer! Get A Lunchtime Face-Lift! Eradicate Autism!  Turn Back The Clock!  Thin Your Thighs!  Cure Menopause!  Harness Positive Energy!  Erase Wrinkles!  Banish Obesity! 

Yes, dear little nags-in-training, you can apparently learn how to perform all these miracles just by watching Oprah every day on TV.

In June, Newsweek magazine ran a revealing Oprah overview by Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert called “Why Health Advice on Oprah Could Make You Sick”.

Their observations focused on Oprah guests whose quasi-medical theories – proven or not – the influential talk show host has decided to endorse. One such celebrity guest is of course the age-denying Suzanne Somers, weighing in on the debate about hormone replacement for menopausal women. The Newsweek piece said:

“Outside Oprah’s world, there isn’t a raging debate about replacing hormones. Women just don’t need as much once they get past their childbearing years. Unless a woman has significant discomfort from hot flashes—and most women don’t—there is little reason to prescribe them. Most women don’t use them. Hormone therapy can increase a woman’s risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and cancer.

And despite Somers’ claim that her specially made, non-FDA-approved bio-identicals are ‘natural’ and safer, they are actually synthetic, just like conventional hormones and FDA-approved bio-identicals from pharmacies.  There are no conclusive clinical studies showing hers are less risky. That’s why endocrinologists advise that women take the smallest dose that alleviates symptoms, and use them only as long as they’re needed.”

Cynthia Pearson is the executive director of the National Women’s Health Network and an authority on hormone therapy. She told Newsweek:

“It completely blew me away that Oprah would go to Somers for advice on this topic. I have to say, it diminished my respect.”

In 2004, Oprah debuted a new “groundbreaking” procedure on her show called a thread lift. Her guest, dermatologist Dr. Karyn Grossman, called it “pretty much as close as you can get to a face-lift without actually cutting” – which it does by having thin threads poked through multiple holes on each side of the face, and then by hoisting facial tissue up and back with the threads. Grossman brought a patient named Sandy with her to demonstrate the always-gripping ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots. Newsweek described the interview like this:

“Oprah flashed the ‘before’ picture of Sandy, what appeared to be a no-makeup shot under harsh lighting. She looked like a 61-year-old woman with no makeup.

“Then, the big reveal. Sandy emerged under the warm studio bulbs, her face heavily pancaked with makeup. She looked like a 61-year-old woman heavily pancaked with makeup. It was difficult to tell if there was any difference. But Sandy pronounced herself pleased with the results, and the audience burst into applause.”

Oprah said almost nothing about possible risks. Yet according to the medical journal Plastic Surgery Practice, doctors reported that “over time, the suture tends to act like a ‘cheese wire’,” cutting through delicate facial tissue. Some patients who underwent the procedure using barbed threads experienced bunching of the skin, dimples and scars.

Others complained the left and right sides of their faces no longer matched up due to ‘migration of the sutures.’  Worse, most patients reported no discernible difference in their ‘before’ and ‘after’ appearance. Somehow, these findings were omitted on the Oprah show, and the procedure has now virtually disappeared from medical practice.

Oprah did choose to do some serious public backtracking following her endorsement of the bestselling book The Secret, which she had urged all her viewers to live by.  The book teaches, among other things, that all disease can be cured by thought alone – advice that one of Oprah’s viewers took to heart and decided to forego breast cancer treatment and to cure herself after hearing Oprah rave about The Secret.

When Oprah heard this story, she urged the woman to follow her doctor’s advice, and reminded her viewers that The Secret was just a tool, “not the answer to everything”.

And let’s not forget former 90’s Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy who told the world via The Pulpit of Oprah that autism is caused by childhood vaccinations.

While Oprah praised McCarthy’s bravery and plugged her book, she failed to invite a physician or scientist to provide balance by explaining to her audience the many studies that contradict the vaccines-autism link. 

Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has been outspoken in decrying the anti-vaccine movement and various alternative autism treatments in his best-selling book Autism’s False Prophets. He categorically condemns McCarthy’s message:

“It’s not fair to these parents. I think false hope is worse than no hope.”

Read about the five medical miracle shows that Oprah may someday wish she’d never aired:  ‘Best Life or Risky Advice?’ from Newsweek.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Why Oprah is not your doctor

  1. I too am skeptical when it comes to medical “advice” I hear on Oprah or any other TV show. It’s important to remember that this is ENTERTAINMENT we’re watching, not medical education.

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  2. I agree. If Oprah were not as powerful as she is, who she believes in or what crackpot she chooses to support would be nobody’s business. But when millions of viewers take her word for it – or her guests’ words – then it is her absolute responsibility to limit exposure to these half-baked celebrity theories and practices.

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