Lindsay Lohan drinks too much, Michael Jackson was allegedly addicted to painkillers, and Keira Knightley and Jennifer Aniston smoke—in real life and in movies. Sure, we're used to celebrities exhibiting self-destructive behaviors, and most of us are too wise to light up or down a bottle of tequila because our favorite stars do. But all too often, famous folks engage in "healthful" or seemingly benign practices that could actually jeopardize the health of those who do follow their lead. Examples:
1. Lady Gaga and "circle" contact lenses. The use of cosmetic contact lenses that extend beyond the iris giving the appearance of larger eyes has come into fashion, thanks to Lady Gaga, who displayed the look in her "Bad Romance" music video. But these drugstore circle lenses—which come in various colors like violet and teal—can cause a host of eye problems. The American Academy of Ophthalmology issued a warning on Wednesday against the lenses stating that "inflammation and pain can occur from improperly fitted, over-the-counter lenses and lead to more serious problems, including corneal abrasions and blinding infections." Though illegal in the U.S., they're still widely available for purchase over the internet, if you don't mind putting your vision at risk.
2. Suzanne Somers and bioidentical hormones. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Somers declined conventional treatments like chemotherapy and tamoxifen. And she continued to take "bioidentical" hormones (identical in structure to what's naturally made by the body) like estrogen despite the fact that oncologists routinely tell breast cancer patients to stay away from estrogen, since it can fuel the growth of the most common kind of tumor. Somers extolled the health benefits of bioidentical hormones for lifelong disease prevention on Oprah, much to the chagrin of many medical professionals. For example, Susan Love, a breast cancer surgeon and author of Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book, said Somers is taking a "crazy" approach to breast cancer prevention. Somers herself admitted her practices were controversial. "[My doctor] told me I could die, but here I am eight years later doing just fine," Somers told U.S. News in an interview last year to promote her book on the subject.
3. Baseball players and "performance enhancing" drugs. Baseball fans were devastated to learn that many of their favorite players, including Cy Young, award-winning pitcher Roger Clemens, and home run slugger Barry Bonds, were named as steroid users in the Mitchell Commission report issued in 2007. Perhaps most upset were the parents of teen athletes who had to then figure out how to keep their own kids off steroids after witnessing their role models breaking records on them.
4. Kardashian sisters and QuickTrim. The reality show stars, Kim and Khloe Kardashian, are paid to endorse QuickTrim diet products, which contain potentially harmful herbal diuretics and laxatives, according to Adriane Fugh-Berman, a physician and associate professor of complementary and alternative medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center. After analyzing the products' content for U.S. News, she concluded, "I don't think anyone should take these products."
[More on the Dangers of Kardashian-Endorsed QuickTrim]
5. Heidi Montag and plastic surgery. The star of the reality show, The Hills, increased her fame quotient by undergoing 10 cosmetic procedures in one day including a nose job, mini browlift, Botox, liposuction, and buttocks and breast augmentation. Richard Chafoo, chief of plastic surgery at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas, Calif., criticized the multiple surgeries, which took 10 hours to perform, as excessive and risky. There's no reason, he added, that a 23-year-old like Montag, untouched by the ravages of aging, would need so many procedures.
Corrected on 07/13/10: An earlier version of this story misspelled the American Academy of Ophthalmology.