U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., received a lot of attention last week for her pointed questioning of TV celebrity physician Dr. Mehmet Oz during a hearing on weight-loss scams. She spoke with St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh today about that hearing, and her concerns about obesity in America.
“I think it is irresponsible for a doctor of medicine who understands science-based research to tout anything as a miracle pill for weight loss,” said McCaskill, explaining that she thought Dr. Oz “sometimes blurs the line between entertainer and doctor.”
“And it’s unfortunate because there are millions of Americans who want to weigh less, and they would love a shortcut. They would love a miracle pill, but there isn’t one. And I think for a doctor to be touting a miracle pill is really disingenuous and frankly unfair to his listeners,” she said.
“There was more to the hearing than Dr. Oz,” McCaskill added. “It was really about the FTC going after fraud and going after scams that are easily perpetrated in this space…so hopefully we exposed that he was not doing the American people a favor by misrepresenting these products, and hopefully we lit a fire under the FTC about going after some of the fraud in this area.”
McCaskill also said that she thinks the hearing had an impact on Dr. Oz, who she believes does good work simplifying complex health topics despite his endorsement of products that aren’t scientifically proven to aid in dieting.
“I think he ended up being fairly apologetic about some of the language he’s used in association with those products, and I’m willing to bet you don’t see as many miracle pills on Dr. Oz going forward,” she said.
The Role of Government in Fighting Obesity
McCaskill said that the government has a role to play in fighting obesity because taxpayers end up paying for health conditions caused in part by obesity.
“If you look at our Medicare program, there is a huge amount of money being spent on diabetes, for example,” she said. “And this is not the kind of diabetes that (isn’t preventable). It’s preventable. It’s preventable with good nutrition. It’s preventable with solid food choices. It’s preventable with controlling obesity. And if we could in fact decrease diabetes in this country by 20 percent over the next 20 years, it would wipe out almost all of our deficit going forward.”
But at the same time, government shouldn’t overreach, she said. Rather than dictate what people should and shouldn’t eat, McCaskill believes government should make sure everyone has access to healthy food and the ability to pay for it.
“Everyone feels better when they are healthier. They’re more productive. They’re happier. They are better parents. They are better children. They are better students. They are better workers,” said McCaskill.