While the title and subject of this blog post is by no means original (see here, here, and here) I believe it is worth repeating and emphasizing the incredible influence that Dr. Oz, as “America’s Doctor,” has over American’s perceptions of health, diet, nutrition and their bodies. Dr. Oz is clearly among the most well-known celbri-docs and I have watched his program on a few occasions. However, I was recently taken aback by just how great and powerful Dr. Oz is after conducting three unrelated research projects where during discussions of diet and food choices his name repeatedly came up as a trusted source of knowledge.
I won’t get into the arguments about whether the advice that Dr. Oz dispenses is helpful and based on scientific evidence or whether it crosses into the realm of smoke, mirrors and pseudoscience, but the fact is that America is paying quite a bit of attention to the man behind the curtain.
In today’s world, with the vast amounts of information that we are exposed to on a regular basis about health, nutrition and dieting through digital media, TV, on the packaging of foods and simply through talking with friends and family, very few people can actually pinpoint the source of their ideas about the relationship between diet and health. The information overload consumers face provides so much information, and some of it contradictory, that consumers effectively develop their own guidelines for what defines a healthy diet and what works for them from a conglomeration of different, and often forgettable sources.
And then there is Dr. Oz.
While it perhaps should not have surprised me, I was incredibly surprised over the course of these research projects how Dr. Oz consistently came up as a named source that research participants trusted to give them advice about health and nutrition. As one research participant who was, somewhat paradoxically, skeptical of the food industry mentioned, “He seems trustworthy… He’s a doctor. He’s on TV. You want to believe him.”
It’s the old “Trust me, I’m a doctor” phenomenon, combined with the “I’m on TV and I’m a celebrity and celebrities should always be trusted” phenomenon. Dr. Oz has the both the credibility of being a doctor, which is legitimately derived through his MD from the University of Pennsylvania and being a professor of surgery at Columbia, and the arguably more important credibility of celebrity, derived in large part through the most powerful and enduring celebrity of all – Oprah Winfrey!
So whether this is old news to you or not, it is definitely worth noting that Dr. Oz is NOT the man behind the curtain. He is the man in front of the curtain, and he is the man in America’s living room that quite a few people are listening to.