Beware of the Queen of Talk

You Can’t Believe Everything You See on TV.

Daytime talk shows are the staple and most influential genre of daytime television. But, beware of what you view on TV, because not everything televised is true.

Talk shows are not unbiased documentaries of objective journalism. The guests often appear to promote their products making the show a 44 minute informercial. Let’s speed past Maury, Bonnie, Ellen, Jerry Springer, and the rest of the talk show hosts and go right to the queen of talk: Oprah.

When we say, “Oprah,” we do not mean just “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” We are talking about the major mega-media production empire that includes: “Dr. Phil,” “Rachael Ray,” and “The Doctors.” At their best “Oprah” and to a lesser extent, “Dr. Phil,” and “The Doctors” present interesting people to discuss complex subjects in an informative and positive fashion.

At their worst, they are gutless, misinformed, and misleading. Examples of misconduct of these three daytime talk shows were when they gave Suzanne Somers, Jenny McCarthy, and Robin McGraw the limelight while discussing hormone replacement therapy.

Not long ago on her TV show, Oprah Winfrey sat beside actress and self-proclaimed women’s health guru Suzanne Somers and told millions of viewers to read Somers‘ 2007 book, “Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones.” Somers was singing the benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women.

In an article by Rahul K. Parikh, M.D. entitled, “Oprah’s bad medicine. Given her influence, it’s a shame the TV star offers unbalanced health and medical advice,” Dr Parikh explains that what Somers was advocating was radically different from standards of medical care. He writes, “Physicians who may have been watching the show surely winced, but Winfrey was not concerned.”

Oprah herself said, “Many people write Suzanne off as a quackadoo.” She continued, “But she just might be a pioneer.”

Dr. Parikh explains, “The word “bioidentical” has no medical meaning. All hormones, whether they’re prescribed or not, are derivatives of plant or animal hormones and manipulated in a lab to get the finished product. Many bioidentical hormones (including the ones Somers uses) come from non-FDA regulated compound pharmacies, where drugs are not subject to the same quality standards as those made by pharmaceutical companies. An FDA survey demonstrated a 40 percent failure rate for compounded bioidentical hormone products when those drugs were tested for purity and potency.”

Also, Oprah didn’t ask Suzanne Somers whether her super-hormone regimen could have contributed to Somers‘ history of breast cancer. She didn’t ask Somers about her hysterectomy, the result of pre-cancerous changes in her uterus from her use of Hormone Replacement Therapy. And she didn’t ask about the validity of Somer’s book’s sources, many of whom are neither experts in women’s health or endocrinology, nor board-certified physicians, nor experienced researchers.

No one (including Dr. Phil McGraw himself) can actually expect Dr. Phil to cure, treat, or change psychotic behavior in 44 minutes. Dr. Phil acknowledges this often. He does often give his troubled guests access to professional medical practitioners which is commendable.

But beware when Dr. Phil’s dips into other medical areas that are not his expertise or basis of education. For example, his wife Robin and Dr. Phil regularly produce a show about female hormones and natural remedies used for hormonal imbalance. The typical misinformation on their annual show is that bioidentical hormones are better than synthetic hormones. Again, bioidentical hormones cannot be patented, and must be made by a compounded pharmacist.

Robin claims that natural remedies are safer than pharmaceutical products. But, the truth is that a chemical is a chemical. Identical chemicals perform the same in the body regardless of their source. Does it matter whether the chemical comes from your gynecologist’s prescription pad and then is purchased at a local pharmacy or made by a compounding pharmacy? Nope. Does caffeine react differntly in your body whether it comes from tea, soda, coffee, or a pill? Nope. No matter the source, caffeine will create side effects in your body.

In primetime on “The Larry King Show,” a recurring guest has been Jenny McCarthy. Jenny McCarthy has a son diagnosed with autism. Jenny appears on Larry King because she is an adamant opponent of childhood vaccines. She claims that vaccines cause autism. She has become the most visible spokesperson of an ardent anti-vaccine movement.

Oprah was so impressed by Jenny’s appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that Oprah has offered Jenny her own talk show. Jenny was never countered with tough questions about her scientific training, education, or lack thereof.

Dr. Parikh says once again that Oprah, “drew criticism from children’s advocates, as McCarthy and her autism advocacy group, Generation Rescue, have been leading an ideological, unscientific crusade against childhood vaccines. Add in…Dr. Phil, and you might be tempted to sue her for malpractice.”

Instead of searching for scientific accuracy, Oprah sought “synergy.” Synergy is the concept that sending a guest from one show to another increases the value of each show and of the guest. So, Oprah sent Jenny to the “Dr. Phil” show and “The Doctors” as a form of advertising to promote Jenny’s views and hopefully viewers of her new show in the future.

Jenny made it to “Dr. Phil” and gave her presentation. She was welcomed with the friendliest of questions of her position possible. Any opposing scientific discussion was not thoroughly discussed.

“The Doctors” should have subjected Jenny to scientific scrutiny. Although the four physicians didn’t agree with her views saying the worst advice would be to stop getting children vaccinated, they barely challenged her views. They presented Jenny with her physician who has prescribed a customized diet to treat Jenny’s son. Jenny and the doctor saw positive results in her son. But perhaps her son was “cured” of food allergies. Perhaps the diet she prescribes helps many children with food allergies too. But, that is no proof that vaccines caused autism in her son.

Maybe some TV judges would accept this as evidence, but doctors and scientists should be more skeptical. Do the claims made by Suzanne Somers, Jenny McCarthy, and Robin McGraw ring true for some patients? Probably. But, only you and your personal doctors can determine what will work for you.

The fact remains that most doctors do not want their patients to be guinea pigs. Until the clinical trials are conducted and their claims are scientifically proven, why would you want to be the guinea pig either? Do you really want to try a treatment that hasn’t had clinical trials or scientific backing?

When watching daytime talk shows always be cautious and skeptical of the biased information presented.

Have you ever tried a treatment or product after learning about it on a daytime talk show?


  1. I actually love Oprah, but I also think the article above is correct. She doesn’t provide both sides of the story. She does not provide objective journalistic information. Her show often is like an infomercial.I have fibromyalgia and had hoped Oprah would do a show on the illness for years. I wrote the show hoping to encourage them to do a show about chronic pain (the major symptom of fibromyalgia). I am NOT a doctor, just a patient, but very very very involved in helping others suffering from chronic pain or chronic fatigue (both I suffer from).I have attended fibromyalgia conferences where Dr. Teitelbaum author of “From Fatigued to Fantastic!” has spoken and I even had him sign his book for me. Sadly his methods outlined in his book just never helped me or those that attend my local Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome support goup. But Oprah praised him on her show. The had one Fibro patient on who tried his methods and they worked.Suddenly, I had five friends (that do not have fibromyalfia) call me excited about seeing Dr. Teitelbaum on Oprah. They were convinced that he had a miracle cure that I had not tried. But, I tried his methods and they were unsuccessful. I also attend Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome support groups. Everyone at my group (about 15 of us) were really excited to try his approaches in the past. But, they simply don’t work (FOR US). I think his advice might work for others and there really is no harm in following the diet and supplements he recommends in his book as long as you continue to follow your doctor’s advice too. Patients should NOT follow his advice instead of their doctor’s advice, ever!I admit others probaby have been helped following his diet. But I think those patients probably do not suffer from fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, rather are nutrient insufficient in some way.Oprah allowed a whole bunch of holistic doctors preach on her show that day Dr Teitelbaum was mentioned. She really did slant the topic to Dr. Teitelbaum’s approach as being a new miracle when my support group members and I had all tried his methods a decade ago and since then and just did not work. But again, it’s not bad to learn about him and read the book and try his methods. I just hate that the show didn’t promote other methods that work.I am also concerned when patients think holistic treatments are always better than regular prescriptions. A chemical is a chemical and will affect your body in the same way whether “natural” or not. For example, is Saint John’s Wort really safer than prescribed anti depressants from the psychiatrist. Just because it’s natural it isn’t better. It isn’t regulated by the FDA and it is a chemical nonetheless.I am not saying his diet doesn’t work for some. Of course it must or he wouldn’t be so controversial. (He is controversial because for many it doesn’t work too). I am not against trying anything that will reduce pain and increase energy for fibromyalgia patients. Dr. Teitelbaum’s approach of holistic treatments is fine. But, I was mad that Oprah and Dr Oz implied standard treatments aren’t as good as good as Dr T’s. There was NO discussion about what actually works for patients of doctors that treat fibro patients for decades. What about us fibro patients that reducing sugar and increasing vitamin D does not work? Let us really investigate the whole topic rather than a quick commercial for Dr. Teitelbaum. Shelley, Silver Spring, MD

  2. I am just really shocked that you don’t have zillions of people arguing in favor of Oprah. She seems more powerful and infulencial than Obama. I couldn’t agree with the statements more. But, I am shocked no one argued.Michelle, Denver CO

  3. How true. Oprah can make anyone’s career or product successful! She has become such an icon that people barely question anything she says. I happen to like her; however, I tend to agree, there are never 2 sides to the story. If she has you on her show, it’s because she is endorsing you or whatever you have to say or sell. It isn’t Dateline, 48 hours or 60 minutes!

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