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But I thought Dr. Oz cared about me.

March 26, 2009

Have you taken a Real Age (tm, natch) test? I have and considering how ubiquitous the ads for the test are, chances are many of you have too.

Well, it turns out that if you elected to join the Real Age (TM-to-the-MAX) forums, then all the answers to your test may have been turned over to pharmaceutical companies so that you could be targeted for drug ads based on your responses.

Pharmaceutical companies pay RealAge to compile test results of RealAge members and send them marketing messages by e-mail. The drug companies can even use RealAge answers to find people who show symptoms of a disease — and begin sending them messages about it even before the people have received a diagnosis from their doctors.

While few people would fill out a detailed questionnaire about their health and hand it over to a drug company looking for suggestions for new medications, that is essentially what RealAge is doing…

It acts as a clearinghouse for drug companies, including Pfizer, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline, allowing them to use almost any combination of answers from the test to find people to market to, including whether someone is taking antidepressants, how sexually active they are and even if their marriage is happy.


Honestly, I’ve always had mixed feelings about the whole Dr OZ thing. For every sensible suggestion he makes, he generally follows it up with at least one woo-ish recommendation. And the YOU books are becoming tiresome. (YOU: Continuing to buy our books because Oprah told you too.) Still, he has Oprah’s stamp of approval and that means a lot of people assume he’s looking out for them and not for his brand’s bottom line.

At the very least, people should be aware that they’re giving out their medical info when they agree to join the forums.

Also, check out Orac’s post on Respectful Insolence.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2009 3:32 am

    I’m not too surprised about the RealAge, I thought their quiz and much of their advice was very strange. I actually wrote to complain, as they dinged me for riding a bicycle around town, and other stuff that I thought was outrageous, maybe not eating yogurt or chicken, I can’t quite remember. That was many years ago, I no longer take that stuff seriously. I realize that I’m a strange woman living in a really strange town, but I can’t be that far out of the mainstream. With few exceptions, most “free” health advice wants to sell you something or other, or sell your info to others so they can sell it to you.

    As for Huffington Post, I was just reading this morning an article on why counting calories never works, based on that somewhat poorly planned study where three groups lost similar weight, then started to gain it back. Her obvious solution was that the Ornish Diet works the best, and should work for everybody. I know, that for me, I am very unhappy at very low fat, and I don’t really fancy high carb, and thus it absolutely doesn’t work for me.

    • March 27, 2009 7:15 am

      I found it a tiny bit surprising just because Oz tends to lean towards the lifestyle/nutrition solutions first point of view. I figured between his shows and his books and being a doctor and all that he had enough revenue. I mean, I assumed the Real Age test was a way to sell more books, but I guess it makes sense that they wouldn’t have these forums and all that advertising for nothing.

      Argh, that is so frustrating to me. The reason anyone might lose weigh on the Ornish diet is *because* drastically lowering your fat intake will cause you to cut calories. The Huffington Post is full of bad science anyway, but still I hate that “don’t count calories, but follow this diet that is just a way to trick you into cutting calories.” I get why counting is bad for some people’s mental health, but it doesn’t mean that’s not the basis for every single diet out there. And I’m with you, low fat/high carb diets absolutely do not work for me.

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