Few studies have systematically analysed whether health recommendations and claims from TV medical talk shows are supported by evidence and whether they are exaggerated or biased.
This study aimed to determine whether health recommendations and claims from TV medical talk shows are supported by evidence and the levels of evidence.
We watched 60 randomly selected episodes from the top three TV medical talk shows, which aired in 2016. Two independent researchers identified 382 recommendations made. For 356 recommendations from which searchable questions could be developed, we extracted specific details surrounding the recommendations. For 139 randomly selected recommendations (39%), as a primary outcome we evaluated the percentage of recommendations that were supported by evidence and the levels of evidence based on the criteria of the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine.
The most frequent disease topics belonged to the aesthetic category (44.6%). Among the Western Medicine, traditional Korean Medicine and diet/exercise/lifestyle advice categories, diet/exercise/lifestyle advice was the most frequently recommended (61.5%). Recommendations regarding disease prevention and health promotion were the most common (41.1%). More than half of the recommendations mentioned clinical outcomes (54.7%) and general benefits were presented in 70.6% of the recommendations, while costs were not addressed in any recommendations. Evidence supported 59% of recommendations, while evidence contradicted or no relevant evidence was available for 41% of recommendations. Level 1 or 2 evidence was available for 46.3% of recommendations, where supported by evidence, and for 66.7% of recommendations that evidence contradicted.
Recommendations from TV medical talk shows often lack adequate evidence and the evidence is often from a low level of mechanism-based reasoning.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement:
The public should be adequately informed as to whether recommendations made on TV medical talk shows are supported or disputed by the evidence.