Dec. 4, 2006 — -- It's 8 a.m., and Suzanne Somers is already at work.
She's getting ready to tape a commercial for the FaceMaster, one of 1,000 -- yes, 1,000 -- products she sells on her Web site, Suzanne.com.
But first she has carved out 20 minutes to talk with ABCNEWS.com about her new book, "Ageless," her 16th. It's selling very well, thank you.
"I think middle age is incredible," she said.
"I love being 60. And I'm not just saying that," she said, knowing how promotional it sounded. "I love it because I'm hormonally in balance."
The "H" word -- hormone -- is on its way to redefining Suzanne Somers.
For decades, she has been best known as the woman who played the dumbest blond in America on the sitcom "Three's Company." Never mind that she went on to prove how smart she was, making a fortune selling Thighmasters, diet books, make-up, jewelry and food as a superstar on the Home Shopping Network.
Now she is ground zero in the widening debate over the safety and effectiveness of "bio-identical hormones." Somers says these estrogen-replacement cocktails, made from soy and yam extract into serums, patches and creams designed to relieve the symptoms of menopausal distress are "the juice of youth."
"Without hormones there is no quality of life," she declares. She says because she has replaced the hormones she's lost in the aging process with ones that are biologically identical, "my skin looks better, my body is more toned. … I sleep 8 or 9 hours a night, my weight is not an issue, I'm in an upbeat mood almost all the time, my libido is good."
What middle-aged menopausal woman wouldn't want to feel the same way?
But the medical establishment is warning women not to be seduced into believing in this Fountain of Youth. "No evidence exists that bioidentical hormones are safer than conventional hormones," warns the Mayo Clinic. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says most of the bioidentical products on the market "have not undergone rigorous testing for safety and efficacy, and issues regarding purity, potency, and quality are a concern."
The issue is especially sensitive given the debacle four years ago surrounding conventional Hormone Replacement Therapy drugs. In 2002, the Women's Health Initiative reported that HRT drugs such as Prempro and Premarin, then widely prescribed by doctors, probably did more harm than good, increasing the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Since then, doctors have had little to offer women at this stage of life. Somers' new book, as well as an earlier one called "The Sexy Years," has filled an uncomfortable vacuum and increased demand for bioidentical hormones.
Somers doesn't dispute the sparseness of medical evidence on the safety of bioidentical hormones. She's just not willing to wait for it: "It's going to take 20 to 25 years to do the long-term double-blind studies. I'll be 85. What point is there?"
What she does dispute is that her book may encourage women to make dangerous choices: "I don't know why there is such a furor over this. If you read my book, you'll never find the word 'should.' All I say is, 'Here's what I'm doing. If what I'm doing appeals to you, look into it.'"
Buy the book, don't buy the book. Suzanne Somers is content. She's thin, she's rich and she doesn't care if you think she's just a dumb blonde waist-deep in pseudo-science.
"You live your life the way you want," she says. "I think I'm inspiring to women my age, that we don't have to be put out to pasture, we don't have to become sexless beings that no one pays attention to."
Now, if you'll excuse her, she has a commercial to make.