This is a Blog post I made on a free exercise/diet site I am a part of called SPARKPEOPLE. It has recently come to my attention that they are allowing ads for bracelets that promote better performance.
Everywhere I look; there are increased amounts of bracelets/necklaces for sale that promise increased performance, better health, increased strength. I have noticed them more and more in sport stores, vitamin stores, infomercials, and ads. Now sparkpeople.com is showing ads for these types of bracelets and necklaces. (I understand that ads pay for the site so we may use it for free) While Sparkpeople may choose to take their money where ever they can get it, as consumers should be cautious with our money. With our society in seemingly desperate need for science understanding, these bracelets/necklaces drive the point home even more.
What is a Magic Bracelet/Necklace? It varies in development, but the usual claim is ions in the bracelet or some electromagnetic energy from ions in bracelet claim to balance your body; affect the ions in your body that is out of balance. Thus calming the inflammation and pain you are experiencing. The problem with this claim is a flaw in understanding ions. Ions can only be formed when an ionic compound is dissolved in a solvent creating a solution. They CANNOT maintain ion status in a solid. The positive and negative ions attract each other to form strong bonds creating a solid. Ionic Compounds are solid. When ions bond together there is no longer any outward affect as the ions need for electrons has been satisfied.
Now your body has solutions running all through it and yes it has ions in it, these are called electrolytes. The body does not allow for an imbalance of positive ions over negative ions. Should there be an imbalance it would be that you do not have enough or you have too many electrolytes in your body. The most likely cause of this electrolyte change is your activity level or an illness.
“Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are in your blood, urine and body fluids. Maintaining the right balance of electrolytes helps your body’s blood chemistry, muscle action and other processes. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink.
Levels of electrolytes in your body can become too low or too high. That can happen when the amount of water in your body changes. Causes include some medicines, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating or kidney problems. Problems most often occur with levels of sodium, potassium or calcium.” (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
There is not a single device out there that is going to fix this problem. What is a really good fix? Your fluid intake! Just plain old clean water, drink more or less (maybe some sports drink, depending on your doctor’s diagnosis if necessary) and you will feel better! You will have better endurance, speed, and muscle performance and there is not magic involved!
“Oh, but it works for me!” Does it really? “Yes! The pain goes away a few minutes after I put it on!”
What is the common thread that makes these situations tricky and believable? Answer: You. You cannot do a study with only you involved. To many ways for your mind to play tricks with you not even knowing it. If your pain is the result of a minor problem, chances are it would have gone away with out the item. If your pain keeps on persisting chances are it may not be a minor problem and will require you to see your doctor.
Things to consider: What were you doing at the time? Are you distracted at any point? Are you favoring that area? Placebo Effect? Then minor aches and pains will go away with in minutes. Are you favoring that area? When you are distracted or become “into” what you are doing your aches and pains tend to go away as well. If you are favoring the afflicted area then the pains have a tendency to go away. Sometimes we do not even realize at the time we are favoring a limb when we are doing various actives. Another factor to consider is the Placebo Effect.
The placebo effect is the measurable, observable, or felt improvement in health or behavior not attributable to a medication or invasive treatment that has been administered.
A placebo (Latin for “I shall please”) is a pharmacologically inert substance (such as saline solution or a starch tablet) that produces an effect similar to what would be expected of a pharmacologically active substance (such as an antibiotic). (Skeptic’s Dictionary)
This is a power effect on the mind and body. You want the pain to go away, you inadvertently look to things to ease that pain. It is understandable, but it can also lead the mind to be easily fooled.
Something else to consider, if these items actually worked, then why do the companies that make them get shut down or sued? Why do they have to change their healing claims to fit with in the law?
In September 2006, the Chicago court sided with the FTC and ordered Que Te Park and his companies to turn over $22.5 million in net profits and provide up to $64.5 million more in refunds to consumers who had bought the bracelets . During the trial, Park testified that he could not define the term “ionization” but picked it because it was simple and easy to remember. The court concluded that his testimony on ionization was “contradictory and full of obfuscation” and that “he is a clever marketer but a poor witness.” Park also acknowledged that QT had at least a 25% refund rate from dissatisfied customers (more than 100,000 people)
“Q-Ray is a crescent of metal capped with a pair of metal beads. In the past it was marketed as a pain-relief device. Now, it is being marketed as a way to achieve “performance,” balance” and “vitality,” and also as something that will “balance the negative and positive energy forces in your body.” All this is apparently the work of “ionization,” which is a five-dollar word for electric charge.” (cbc marketplace)
If it was a true medical cure wouldn’t the medical community embrace these bracelets/necklaces? The Hippocratic oath would surely require them to push these medical miracles. The facts are no matter what the brand or scientific claim is the result is the same: It does not work. That is the bottom line of these products. They are gimmicks and they are expensive.
How can I help myself not get sucked into these gimmicks?
Watch out for the following red flags:
- Scientifically Proven
- Scientific Studies Show
- U.S. Patent Pending
- Doctors/Scientists supporting claims
- Physical Tests shown i.e.: person not wearing magic item can support self against force, same person wearing magic now can support self against force.
If these claims are being made, then really it is something to raise your eyebrows and question what is going on. The old cliché still holds true here: “If it sounds to good to be true..” Miracles do not exist. What is needed in cases like these is Critical Thinking! If the information is good and the data is properly collected and is good then why the need to fill the commercial with gimmicks. Question claims being made. Question the results being shown. If you cannot afford to go to the doctor to fix your ailment, then your really can’t afford to throw money away on an a bracelet or necklace claiming to have the cure.
Brian Dunning. “Here be Dragons“. 6/27/2010
Author Unknown. “Fluid and Electrolyte Balance” U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National
Institutes of Health. Updated 06/23/10. 6/27/10
Author Unknown. “FTC Seeks To Halt Deceptive Pain Relief Claims and Provide Consumer
Refunds” Federal Trade Commision. Released 06/02/03. 6/27/2010
Author Unknown. “Buying Belief: Meet the little bracelet that raises big questions” CBC
Market Place. Released 11/14/07. 6/27/2010