Though he is, indeed, a cardiologist, Stephen T. Sinatra is better known as one of the most prominent and comprehensively lunatic woo-meisters, or “integrative medicine” practitioners, working in the US at present. In addition to being a cardiologist, Sinatra is a “certified bioenergetic psychotherapist”; we can probably safely assume that the certification is worth about as much as the bioenergetic psychotherapy it certifies. He also the proud owner of certifications from the Massachusetts Society for Bioenergetic Analysis, the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists and the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine, a discipline that is emphatically not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Medical Association. All the certifications mentioned are of the kind that conveys less credibility on any practitioner bothering to obtain them. Sinatra is furthermore the author of the monthly newsletter Heart, Health & Nutrition and founder of Heart MD Institute, and proprietor of the “Healing the Heart” workshop, the psychospiritual component of a “healing” program where patients would, among other things, request guidance from “spiritual powers”. Sinatra is frequently featured on questionable talkshows, broadcasts and media outlets, including the Dr. Oz show and Suzanne Somers’s dangerously crazy book of cancer woo.
Bioenergetic psychotherapy is crackpottery based on the lunatic ravings of Wilhelm Reich, and has nothing to do with bioenergy as it is understood in real sciences – even practitioners occasionally admit that it is not science but instead “informed by science.” (It is not informed by science in any legitimate sense of the word “informed”.) Bioenergetic psychotherapy is, however, a classic tooth-fairy science underpinned by “worthless studies designed to generate false positives – the kind of in-house studies that companies sometimes use so that they can claim their products are clinically proven.”
In his books and newsletter, Sinatra otherwise promote a broad palette of quackery, from nutritional supplements to detoxification. In particular, according to Sinatra, to maintain good health you need to resolve your “emotional blockages” as well as physical ones: “whenever you confront a person with an illness, you have to involve everything, including the spiritual.… Every illness has a psychological and a physical component.” (Or put more succinctly: if you’re sick, or the advice you take from him doesn’t work, it’s your own fault.) His “metabolic cardiology” seems to be a kind of energy medicine – Sinatra is a disciple of James Oschman – focusing on the use of electroceuticals such as grounding or “earthing”, ostensibly to improve the body’s capacity to heal at the cellular level (Sinatra is one of the most prominent promoters of the quackery of earthing in the US). This is not how anything works, of course.
And by the way, apparently the current epidemic of type 2 diabetes is also directly caused by rubber-soled shoes, which insulate us from Mother Earth’s vital 3.83 Hz vibrations, a frequency that “thins our blood so it’s like red wine, not ketchup.” You don’t want your blood to be like ketchup.
So what is the rationale for earthing? As Sinatra explains it, the Earth is a reservoir of free electrons, and without a connection to this reservoir, our cells are unable to balance harmful positive charges; he also includes pictures from live cell microscopy to illustrate how positive charge makes blood cells clump. Of course, our cells don’t need an infusion of electrons and live cell microscopy is a bogus test – Sinatra’s pictures are also unable to show a positive charge, and the blood cell clumping is an artifact that anyways would be irrelevant to the alleged health effects.
Sinatra also claims that we are bombarded by electromagnetic radiation from modern technology, which may disrupt subtle electrical communications in our body; grounding reduces these induced voltages. In reality, of course, there is no evidence that EMF disrupts communication in our body or that grounding would offer any help whatsoever if it did (“subtle” is probably a key term here). Ultimately, however, it’s all about the New Age: earthing is important since our connection with the earth carries information that helps align us with the greater network of intelligence of our planet. Try finding scientific evidence to contradict that, ye philistines. And the point about aligning with an intelligence network is wild imagination not supported by anything in science or reality.
But, ah, yes, the part of Sinatra’s claim you were waiting for: vibrations. Perhaps the (current) core idea in Sinatra’s otherwise somewhat amorphous medical philosophy is vibrations. According to Sinatra, “the whole essence of life is really vibration … when people are sick, their vibration goes down,” but “if we can increase the energy of our cellular framework … our lives will thrive … Vibration is the key to life.” What it means, or how Sinatra measures decreasing vibrations, is of course unclear (we have, of course, left the world of real medicine – or reality – far behind at this point). But he is pretty clear about what causes lowering of your “vibrational energy”:
- Chronic illness
- Negative emotions – hostility, fear, anger, shame, resentment, depression …
- Over-vaccination in the newborn and infants [Sinatra is of course anti-vaccine; what did you expect?]
- Living in the energy of entitlement
- Living in a false self – My life is a lie
- Any misrepresentation of … The Truth!”
That last one is rather revealing, though: This is cult-speak. Stephen Sinatra is trying to build a cult. Otherwise, you should in particular avoid consuming veal, since the angry vibrations in the flesh of animals raised inhumanely can be passed on to those who consume them. Fortunately, you can also increase your vibrations by eating “high vibrational foods,” many of which you can coincidentally and conveniently find in his online store. “[G]rounding the body, FIR sauna and the utilization of very low frequency pulsed electromagnetic waves” also help “assist the quantum energy of the body.” According to Sinatra “[t]his is the new wisdom that will assist us in the good vibe/bad vibe technological age.” “Wisdom” is certainly not an apt term for any of it.
As for EFM, “the chaotic, unseen, and unfelt environmental electrical fields we humans are increasingly exposed to from all the electronics, appliances, and telecommunications in our lives,” what is Sinatra’s evidence for harm? Well, Sinatra will baldly assert that the evidence shows that power lines cause leukemia in children, which is false, and that cell phones cause brain cancers, which is equally untrue. Primarily, however, Sinatra will point out that “[i]llnesses like multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and autism have been proliferating in recent years. The incidence of cancer is up, particularly among young people,” so electropollution must be the cause. Correlation is causation, even when there is, in fact, no correlation.
Sinatra has promoted other kinds of pseudoscientific nonsense, too, of course. He is for instance co-author, with Jonny Bowden (proud holder of a “degree” from the diploma mill Clayton College of Natural Health), of the book The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will. Though less flagrantly nonsensical than his vibration woo, the book – which, to emphasize, hardly enjoys any better foundation in science than his claim that misrepresenting his claims may cause you ill-health by lowering your vibrations – is probably even more likely to cause actual harm to people than his vibration nonsense. (There is an overly fair review of the book here.)
Diagnosis: Egregious nonsense and lunatic New Age ravings, all of it. Of course, if you are able to distinguish evidence-based medical claims from lunatic New Age ravings, you are probably not in Sinatra’s target audience, and he does seem to have found one, for whom the fact that he is, indeed, an MD will probably give him some unwarranted credibility. And make no mistake: despite their laughable silliness, Sinatra’s advice has the potential to cause real and serious harm. Dangerous.