If you, like millions of others, turn to TV shows like "The Dr. Oz Show" and "The Doctors" for medical advice, you may want to do your homework before accepting their advice as gospel.
A study published in The BMJ, the weekly peer-reviewed British Medical Journal, on Wednesday randomly selected 80 episodes of the two popular medical TV shows (40 each) that aired between January 2013 and May 2013. The study was conducted by a team of researchers that included professors in family medicine and pharmacy at the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia.
The researchers recorded all of the recommendations made in the 80 shows they reviewed, and rated them based on how strong the recommendations were in terms of wording and how often the suggestions were repeated. A statement such as "Get your kids vaccinated" for example, was considered a strong recommendation, while "Prescription retin-A helps with ear and other types of acne" was considered a weaker recommendation.
The researchers randomly selected 80 strong recommendations from each show, 160 in total, and together with a team of experienced evidence reviewers, hit the books to determine whether evidence existed to back up the recommendations. They found that only about half of the recommendations made (54.4 percent) were supported by at least one or multiple case studies, while about 45.6 percent of claims either had no evidence to back them up or, worse, were contradicted by medical research.
So, before you run off trying to cut these five ingredients out of your diet right now, eat pumpkin seeds to reduce skin redness or try Dr. Phil's 20/20 diet, you should probably consult with your own doctor. After all, the clinician you've been seeing for years is much more likely to use and evidence-based approach tailored to your unique needs to address your medical needs.
Clarification, December 23:the original photo that ran with this story pictured a panelist on "The Doctors" who didn't appear on the show during the period covered by the study.