Last night I ventured out to my local multiplex and sat through the hour-and-a-half long movie Suzanne Somers’ Breakthrough–which was a video of her speaking at an unnamed conference in Canada. During this speech, she repeated much of the same inaccurate information about bio-identical hormones as she has talked about in many previous speeches, and in her three best-selling books on the topic. Thus the only positive thing I have to say about the movie is that only 15 poor souls showed up.
For fun, let’s look at a few of her major points:
Somers Says: Forgetfulness, bloating, migraines and farting in public can all be blamed on a lack of estrogen.
I Say: Smart people accept these symptoms as signs of growing older–not signs of a disease that needs to be treated with estrogen.
Somers Says: “You’ll lose weight sleeping if you sleep with balanced hormones.” (That is a direct quote–I can’t make this stuff up.)
I Say: Show me the double-blind, placebo controlled study that proves people on hormones lose weight in their sleep.
Somers Says: Thyroid hormone keeps her strong, cures her constipation and thickens her stringy hair.
Ok, this one deserves a little closer attention. She didn’t mention in the speech what type of thyroid she takes. But in her books she parrots the advice given by the anti-aging industry, which is that everyone should take Armour thyroid, which is derived from pigs. I investigated this claim while reporting my book, and I don’t buy it. Armour thyroid fell out of favor in the 1950s, when drug companies learned how to synthesize copies of T4–one form of thyroid, which the human body processes into another form called T3. The problem with Armour is that it contains both T4 and T3, which can cause an overdose of T3. That in turn can put patients at risk of atrial fibrillation and arrhythmias.
And there’s another problem. Throughout this speech and her books, Somers expresses disdain for Premarin and PremPro, the estrogen products for menopausal women that are derived from the urine of pregnant horses. Somers believes bio-identical estrogens and progesterones, derived from soy and yams, are safer and more natural menopause remedies than Premarin and PremPro–a claim that’s never been scientifically proven.
Here’s a more basic question: Why is pig thyroid good but horse urine bad? And don’t tell me that pig thyroid mimics what the human body does naturally–I just explained to you why that’s not true.
During the speech, Somers also glorified the work of a controversial doctor named Stanislaw Burzynski, who specializes in alternative cancer treatments. But as Newsweek pointed out last year, Burzynski synthesizes peptides from human urine for one of his so-called cures. So how is it that this synthetic version of a urine-derived compound cures cancer, but Premarin (derived from horse urine) causes it?
Perhaps the most disturbing part of this movie is what happened at the end. As I left the theater, a man handed me a business card and said “call us if you want more information on bio-identical hormones.” His card said his title was “bio-identical hormone coach.” I checked out his Web site. He doesn’t appear to be either a doctor or a pharmacist. He has merely appointed himself an expert in bio-identical hormones, clearly without any medical training.
I guess if Somers can dole out questionable advice on aging to an unsuspecting public, anyone can.