Hormone testing kit not worth the cost
We trial the Eve Hormone Balance Test.
We trial the Eve Hormone Balance Test.
A pricey hormone test promising to restore the balance in your life is being panned by experts. Here's why we think it’s not worth the cost.
“Get your test kit now to kickstart your hormone health journey in 2020!” touts the ad for the Eve Hormone Balance Test kit. We paid $349 for the kit. It's sold at health stores and online, and promises to empower women “with the knowledge of what’s truly going on in your body”.
The cost of the kit is just the start. After our mystery shopper took the test, the company recommended $420 of vitamin supplements to get her hormones back on an even keel. For another $299, she could sign up for a three-month support programme to “dive deeper” into her hormonal health.
But after shelling out $1000 for the kit and recommended add-ons, it’s not just your hormone balance you may be worried about. Your bank balance could be looking a bit ill.
The Eve Hormone test kit is manufactured by Hawke’s Bay company Eve Health Limited.
Taking the test involves collecting a urine sample between days 18 and 20 on a 28-day menstrual cycle. You then freeze the sample, before posting it to Eve’s lab. What you get back is a report assessing your oestrogen, progesterone and androgen levels along with diet and lifestyle recommendations.
However, the test report for our mystery shopper, a 42-year-old woman in good health, contained contradictory results. The one-page summary stated she had low progesterone but a graph on the following page noted “progesterone levels are within the optimal range”.
It also said she could “take steps to improve oestrogen metabolism” but later noted “oestrogen metabolites are in a good state”.
The report stated results had been analysed by a doctor. However, the person wasn’t a medical doctor. Instead, they had a PhD in Molecular Genetics.
When we questioned Eve Health, head of product and experience Beatrice Thorne said it would “put further quality assurance processes in place” to ensure errors didn’t happen again. She also said it would change the way it refers to non-medical doctors in reports.
For an extra $159, customers can speak with one of the company’s health consultants about their test results. Consultants range from nurses and naturopaths to those with a bachelor’s degree in science or natural medicine.
The report for our shopper also recommended six dietary supplements. Most of the supplements are made by Eve Health’s parent company BePure Health.
All up, our shopper was recommended:
The suggested two-month supply came to $420.50. The supplements were recommended even though Eve Health doesn’t test for nutrient deficiencies.
Ms Thorne defended the use of supplements.
“If you are not making these hormones in adequate levels, we want to ensure your body has the basic nutrients to perform this chemical process,” she said.
There are big bucks to be made selling supplements. This year, Eve Health’s parent company BePure earned $5.7 million from supplement sales. The company is aiming to increase revenue to $22.2 million by 2023.
On average, each customer buys $145 worth of products. As well as the $420.50 in supplements recommended to our mystery shopper, she was offered the BePure Essentials ($189) programme or the BePure Comprehensive ($299) programme. Both programmes offer health coaching and support to make dietary changes, with the latter programme for those with “challenging health concerns”.
Eve Health promotes its test to women experiencing problems with their menstrual cycle as well those who may be feeling tired, lacking energy or who “just generally feel out of balance”.
Ms Thorne said it tests urine because “it makes it easier for people to do the test in the comfort and privacy of their own homes”.
But a urine test isn’t going to give you a reliable picture.
Endocrinologist Dr Stella Milsom said assessing hormone levels in women is a complex area and urine tests aren’t an effective way of doing it – blood tests are the best option. She points out blood tests are free for all New Zealand residents through a GP or specialist. You don’t need to spend $349 on a test kit.
...blood tests are free for all New Zealand residents through a GP or specialist. You don’t need to spend $349 on a test kit.
Blood test results also need to “be correlated with the clinical history of the patient along with an exam”, Dr Milsom said.
“Hormone levels can only be interpreted with full knowledge of the patient history, menstrual cycle stage and examination findings; even kosher hormone tests are never taken in isolation,” she added.
Dr Beth Messenger, Family Planning national medical adviser, said the range of “normal” hormone levels is very wide.
“What’s normal for one person may be different for someone else,” she said. “The majority of women are in the normal range”.
Dr Messenger and Dr Milsom were both dubious about the supplements recommended by Eve Health.
“There’s no data to support their prescription,” Dr Milsom said.
Taking supplements when there’s no evidence you need them is money down the drain. Dr Katherine Black, University of Otago Department of Human Nutrition senior lecturer, said, “generally, supplements are not needed unless there is a clinical deficiency or issue and just create expensive urine”.
Along with supplement recommendations, the report our shopper got from Eve Health provided general lifestyle and diet advice. Lifestyle advice included doing Pilates or yoga, and some strength training, as well as prioritising “me time”, having an Epsom salt bath and getting eight to 10 hours sleep a night.
Dietary recommendations included eating lots of green vegetables, gluten-free whole grains, organic or grass-fed animal protein and “healthy” fats. Listed under the latter was coconut oil, which is high in saturated fat.
Eve Health’s Ms Thorne said the advice was provided as “diet and lifestyle can impact the vast majority of body systems, hormones included”.
While a good diet is important for general health and well-being, Dr Milsom pointed out “there is no specific diet to change your hormones”.
Dr Jane Ussher, Western Sydney University School of Medicine women’s health psychology professor, agreed. “Hormones are not easily open to change,” she said.
If you’re feeling off-kilter, can you blame it on your hormones? Probably not.
Dr Milsom said if you’re having your period “regularly in a cycle between 21 and 35 days, it’s unlikely there’s anything wrong with your reproductive hormones”. The problem usually lies elsewhere.
“It’s more likely the symptoms have another cause, including lifestyle. It’s common for many women to feel over-burdened with their job, household and family responsibilities,” she said.
Dr Ussher noted a study that found career women with child-rearing responsibilities reported “the highest levels of premenstrual distress”. Hormone testing kits aren’t going to provide the answer, she said.
What can help with symptoms?
It’s tried and true advice: eat a good diet and exercise regularly. Research shows women who exercise tend to have milder PMS.
Keep a diary and note your symptoms to understand your cyclical changes. Note other important events going on in your relationships, home life and work.
If your PMS is severe, see your GP. Medical options include the birth control pill. You may also want to consider cognitive behavioural therapy or mindfulness, which can improve feelings of anxiety.
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