TV medical shows are very popular; however, is the advice given on these shows reliable? One study has assessed two popular medical shows and reported on the quality of the information given to viewers.
Health and medical television shows have become very popular in recent years. Shows such as The Doctors and The Doctor Oz Show attract over 2 million viewers, and the hosts of these shows have been reported as a part of the top 100 health and fitness influencers. With this kind of influence over the viewing public, a recent study has aimed to assess the quality of the information provided on the two most popular medical talk shows currently on television.
The study, led by Christina Korownyk, MD, associate professor, family medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, assessed 40 randomly recorded episodes of The Doctors and The Doctor Oz Show. The shows were divided into 3 or 4 topics per show (approx. 12-15 minutes per segment). During each segment there were, on average, 4 or 5 recommendations given, typically from the host or a guest. The study reported that, overall, the most common recommendations given on The Doctor Oz Show were regarding dietary advice, while the most common recommendation given on The Doctors was to consult a healthcare professional. The study also found that both medical shows gave dietary recommendations more often than exercise recommendations.
When assessing the advice given on the shows, the study reported that the potential harms and costs associated with the recommendations were only addressed in <10% and <15% of cases, respectively. The authors therefore suggest that if recommendations were followed by viewers, they would be doing so based solely on trust in the host and/or guest of the show, rather than a balanced overview of risks, benefits, and cost.
The study also reported that no evidence could be found for 1 in 3 recommendations made on The Dr Oz Show, and 1 in 4 recommendations made on The Doctors. The authors therefore conclude that, based on their analyses of the TV shows, viewers should do their own research and speak with their healthcare providers regarding any recommendations made.
Korownyk, C, Kolber, MR, McCormack, J, Lam, V,Overbo, K,Cotton, C, Finley, C,Turgeon, RD,Garrison, S,Lindblad, AJ,Banh, HL,Campbell-Scherer, D,Vandermeer, B, Allan, GM“Televised medical talk shows—what they recommend and the evidence to support their recommendations: a prospective observational study” BMJ 2014;349:g7346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7346:
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Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD