I subscribe to Groupon which often has some fairly interesting and cheap deals. Companies offer discounts so long as a certain number of people order the deal. Often it features beauty treatments, yoga, massage, restaurant deals or shopping discounts. Today, however, they decided to go all-out woo…
[Here’s a link to the current page and here’s a link to a cached version in case Groupon deletes their posts]. People have been waling on these bands (otherwise known as “Power Balance” or “Q-Ray” bands) for some time, ever since the Australian Skeptics absolutely obliterated the product in the media and the courts. The bands have also been shown to have no effect in controlled trials. Power Balance in particular were forced to print the following corrective advertisement: “ln our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility. We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct in breach of s52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.”
Of course this just drives the woo to using vaguer and vaguer claims. Here’s the text from the Groupon with a few thoughts:
Harmony Balance-Bands, made of tourmaline, seek to stimulate healthy physical activity and improve daily life by emitting approximately 1,500 negative ions per cubic centimetre.
Note “seek to”, not “do”. The negative ions need more detailed treatment because it is a pretty complicated issue. I’ll write more on that later…
Some scientists suggest…
“Some scientists suggest…” is a great way of saying “there is no evidence, but we managed to get a few credulous people from outside of the health profession to say…”
…that wearing the negative-ion-emitting bands helps balance the high percentage of positive ions squatting in the atmosphere, which can cause impaired heart function, weakened bones, and constricted blood vessels.
I couldn’t find any evidence during an admittedly-brief literature search for any of these conditions being caused by positive ions “squatting” (whatever that means…) in the atmosphere. They may be assuming that since scientists are still “suggesting” then they can speculate however they like.
Each colourful bracelet ($40) encircles the wrist in an effort to neutralize free radicals, revitalize cell metabolism, enhance immune function, and break down the fourth wall.
“In an effort to…” is more wiggle room for baseless claims. It won’t actually do any of those things.
By donning a wrist wrap 24 hours each day, customers often claim to sleep more deeply than a store-bought baby and exercise with the vigour of a bubby [sic] aerobics instructor.
“Customers often claim” – anecdotal evidence in place of science.
Because the bands are free of magnets, pregnant women and swimmers are also able to sport the Harmony Balance arm belts.”
The wonderful thing about rubber bands that have no biological effects is that they will not have any biological effects. The best thing is that, at $1 to produce, the Groupon discount that the company is offering only reduces its profit margin from 3900% to 1400%. Best check out the Placebo Band, instead.