Suzanne Somers' 'Bombshell' Redefines Aging
In her new book, Suzanne Somers reveals the secrets behind some cutting-edge medical advances that she believes could revolutionize the way we think about getting older.
By Allison Takeda
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Suzanne Somers is 65 years old, but you’d never know it from looking at her.
Somers, an actress, author, and breast cancer survivor, has the blonde hair and enviable figure of a woman half her age. And it’s not just cosmetic. Shefeelsas young as she looks.
“I’m in great health, I’m sexual, and I’m not on any drugs,” she says. “I used to think that aging was unpleasant, but I now know that it can be the best time of life.”
In fact, she says, she’s never felt better or sexier.
Beyond Traditional Health Care
So what’s Somers’ secret? Has she found the ever-elusive fountain of youth?
Not exactly — but shehasfound a team of progressive doctors and researchers who may be able to simulate it. They, along with their discoveries, are the subject of Somers’ new book,Bombshell: Explosive Medical Secrets That Will Redefine Aging.
The book, a series of profiles of and interviews with 15 physicians, spotlights a dozen bombshells, or breakthroughs, that Somers says will change the way we think about getting older. Among the biggest of these, she claims, is a supplement that could significantly extend the human lifespan, a natural alternative to bypass surgery, stem cell research to end cancer, and a skin patch that uses nanotechnology to slow down or prevent free-radical damage to cells.
“This book is meant to blow your mind with the possibilities for your future and present health,” she writes in the intro to Bombshell No. 1. “A lot of the information… is outside the box. The new stuff is not what shows up from most orthodox medical doctors, but here is presented by cutting-edge Western-trained doctors, scientists, and professionals…the best of the best.”
Somers is famous — or infamous, depending on whom you ask — for her alternative approach to health. In recent years, she’s become known just as much for her unconventional medical views as for her roles on sitcoms such asThree’s CompanyandStep by Step.
In 2006, Somers started a national debate onThe Oprah Winfrey Showwhen she advocated for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), a controversial (and non-FDA approved) treatment for menopause that was also the subject of her bookAgeless. Then, in 2008, she sparked another much-publicized dispute, this time with the American Cancer Society, by promoting alternative therapies over standard treatments like chemo and radiation. And last year, more than a decade after a lumpectomy to remove a tumor in her right breast, she became the first American participant in a clinical trial for cell-assisted lipotransfer, an innovative (and, it should be noted, still experimental) stem-cell procedure that literally regrewher breast using fat from other parts of her body.
“I appreciate health care that gets to the root cause of our symptoms and promotes wellness, rather than the one-size-fits-all drug-based approach to treating disease,” she said of her preference for nontraditional medicine. “I love maintaining an optimal quality of life — naturally.”
The New Old Age
Given her history, it’s hardly a surprise that Somers would seek alternative ways to turn back the clock as she got older.
“The biggest myth about aging is that we can’t do anything about it,” she says. “That it’s a road to being decrepit, frail, and sick.”
That may have been true in the old days, but today, medical advances make it possible to live not just longer but happier and healthier lives, too. The key is knowing where to look for help and then being proactive enough to ask for it.
“You have to make a plan for aging, and you have to start now,” Somers advises. “I balance my hormones with bioidentical hormones, I eat organic, I take supplements as determined by lab work, I sleep eight hours nightly, I use organic cosmetics and green household cleaners, and I avoid toxins as best I can. I also take antioxidants, and I never take pharmaceuticals unless absolutely necessary. I am in control of how I age, and I am in control of my health.”
Control is a recurring theme inBombshell. Too often we wait until we’ve already lost it to take action, Somers writes, recalling how her elderly relatives were forced to forfeit both their independence and their identities, as their minds and bodies slowly gave in to the perils of old age.
“The present paradigm of aging is a loss of energy and sickness — cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s — with the ultimate end point being the nursing home.Bombshellasks the question: If you don’t want to end up this way, what are you doing about it?” she says.
Suzanne Somers' Anti-Aging Bombshells
Whatothersare doing about it is what inspired Somers to write the book to begin with. Here, a quick look at just a few of the bombshells that she believes could change everything we think we know about getting older:
Telomerase.The biggest bombshell in the book, Somers says — the thing that will most change the way we age — is something called TA-65, a daily supplement designed to reverse the aging process by activating telomerase, an enzyme discovered by three Nobel Prize-winners that lengthens the telomeres on our chromosomes. Longer telomeres mean longer lives, says Andy Jurow, MD, a gynecologist and anti-aging specialist in Burlingame, Calif., who both takes and prescribes the supplement.
“For anyone interested in anti-aging, this could be the biggest breakthrough of all time,” Somers writes of TA-65. Among its other rumored benefits: shinier hair, smoother skin, better eyesight, and increased sexual function. So what's the catch?
First, because it's a supplement and not a drug, it isn't approved or pre-screened by the FDA, which means that there could be undiscovered risks associated with taking it. One such risk may be an increased incidence of cancer. In a study of TA-65 last year, scientists found that mice treated with the supplement developed liver cancer at higher rates than other mice. The researchers said that these rates were "not statistically significant," but other experts, like Judith Campisi, Ph.D., a scientist at California’s Buck Institute for Research on Aging, say we should proceed with caution anyway.
“Telomerase is a double-edged sword,” Dr. Campisi says. “On the one hand, it prevents the genomic instability that would drive cancer. On the other hand, it also prevents the cell death and senescence that wouldpreventcancer. So compounds like TA-65, which activates telomerase, can certainly in theory have beneficial effects, but they can also in theory have deleterious effects. It’s kind of a trade-off.”
Campisi adds that this is true for many anti-aging advances. “A lot of them are these Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde things — they can be both positive and negative depending on time and context, or when and where they’re used,” she explains. “There’s just no simple answer.”
Second, TA-65 is expensive to produce, so it’s also expensive to purchase: A year's supply may set you back anywhere from ,000 to ,000, depending on how old you are and how many supplements you need daily. And since we don't know yet what the long-term risks are, you could be paying for a health effect you don't really want.
Environmental medicine.Environmental medicine, or survival medicine, as Somers calls it, is a field of health care designed to rid your body of toxins before they can cause cancer or another serious disease. This means “detoxifying” both the individual and the individual’s environment, which can be an extensive and sometimes invasive process. In extreme cases, William Rea, MD, tells Somers, patients may be so vulnerable to bacteria and viruses in their surroundings that they require regular "food shots" (injections to neutralize chemicals and desensitize the individuals to toxins) and have to cover their furniture and floors with aluminum foil, which is “nearly 100 percent impervious” to most chemicals.
"We are under the greatest environmental assault in the history of mankind,” Somers says. “The human body has no mechanism to detoxify as we get older, and people who carry the HLA [human leukocyte antigen] gene are particularly sensitive to toxins. These people literally cannot manage in our toxin-filled world. Environmental doctors are able to detoxify the body and teach people how to live in an atmosphere that is free of chemicals.”
This sounds reasonable in theory, but in practice, environmental medicine, or clinical ecology, is a bit of a gray area. The American Medical Association does not recognize it as an official specialty, and many mainstream doctors and institutions have condemned it as ineffective, unproven, and dangerous. Four years ago, the Texas Board of Medicine even tried to revoke Dr. Rea's license.
Of particular concern is the practice of neutralization therapy, which involves regularly injecting the patient with whatever materials he or she is sensitive to — including things like mercury, wood, perfume, and diesel. Experts say there’s no viable scientific evidence that this provides any benefit to the individual, and in fact some warn that it may actually cause harm.
Oxytocin.Oxytocin isn’t a new discovery — it’s already known to play a role in childbirth and breastfeeding — but it is relatively new to the bioidentical hormone field. Somers' own gynecologist, Prudence Hall, MD, claims that oxytocin replacement with bioidenticals leads to better sexual arousal and more intense orgasms for both men and women. And as Somers writes in the intro to Bombshell No. 4, “A healthy person is a sexual person.”
Before you ask your doctor for a prescription, however, you should note that bioidentical hormones, like the aforementioned TA-65 supplements, are not sanctioned by the FDA and have not been medically proven safe or effective.
"The FDA is not aware of any credible scientific evidence to support claims made regarding the safety and effectiveness of compounded bioidentical hormones," the FDA says. "They are not safer just because they are 'natural.' We are concerned that claims like these mislead women and health care professionals, giving them a false sense of assurance about using potentially dangerous hormone products."
Choice.Perhaps the most important anti-aging bombshell the book offers is not a particular medical discovery but the realization that we now have options — and with those options, the power to take charge of our future health and well-being, and to own or even embrace whatever age we are, as Somers has.
“I like my woman-ness,” she says. “I think it’s sexy and alluring. I like being the new face of the matriarch. I like having a sharp brain coupled with my wisdom and perspective. I like the way I look and I like the confidence that comes with being the elder of the tribe. It’s my greatest passage so far.”
Read an excerpt from Suzanne Somers’s new bookBombshell: Explosive Medical Secrets That Will Redefine Aging. For more on the book and to sign up for her FREE newsletter for tips on how to stay young and slim, click here.
Video: Suzanne Somers talks aging, breast cancer, hormone replacement
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