Do Power Balance wrist bands work? Of course they don’t…

Silicone wrist bands and other “performance jewellery” have become commonplace among sports stars (see Paul Collingwood and Andrew Strauss, England cricketers, who are bedecked in several varieties).  Power Balance, Harmony, Ionic, Q-Ray, Balance, Bio-Ray, IRenew and Rayma are some of the many brands that you might see online or in sports stores.  I have been writing about negative ions and balance bands for a few years now, but most of that focused on the inherent lack of a plausible mechanism by which the things could work.  Since I wrote those posts, there have been a number of clinical trials published, and I thought it would be worth trying to pull some of those together to provide an overview of the science.  I have linked to all the studies so you can check them out yourself.

Summary: I found seven studies: four journal articles, one MSc thesis, one research poster, and one conference presentation which was an expansion of a journal article.  The studies included a total of 193 participants and looked mainly at balance, strength and agility, all using the Power Balance band (in which holograms are the supposedly active part).  None showed any improvement in performance with the band, but study quality varied.  Interestingly, some studies suggest that the placebo effect might not even be present. However, another study showed that the placebo effect with this product is strongly dependent upon prior beliefs, and that performance may even suffer while wearing a band if the participant does not believe that the band will help. I was not able to find any tests of bands in which “ions” were purported to be the mode of action.

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BREAKING NEWS: Correactology can no longer cure cancer!!

From http://www.someecards.com/workplace-cards/its-the-small-victoriesPresumably as the result of in-depth clinical trials (how else would they know that their treatments can cure so many severe and varied diseases and conditions?) the experts at the Correactology Centres (which I have discussed before) have removed “cancer” from the list of “ailments” that Correactology can treat.  A quick scan from an archived version of their “Ailments Treated” page from 4th November 2007 shows 127 ailments, but that list on the current version of the page is only 126.  In case you are wondering whether I am serious, I want to be absolutely clear that a PubMed search for “Correactology” produces zero results.  The removal of cancer from the list was an edit to the website, rather than a contribution to scientific research.  There have been no trials.  There are no datasets.  There are anecdotes and testimonials that score very low on the evidence pyramid.  Nevertheless, Correactologists take money from patients, claiming to be able to treat all kinds of diseases.  I will leave you to browse their (wish) list at your leisure, but I wanted to highlight a couple that are particularly unpleasant:Read More »

Why does breast cancer research receive more research funding than prostate cancer?

Carcinoma of the prostate

“Men’s Rights Activism” (MRA) is a dirty phrase in many circles.  The MRA movement is a fairly diverse beast ranging from claims of inequality in child custody cases to accusations of full-blown, societal-scale misandry typified by higher death rates in men and lower levels of social investment.  One claim in particular that the MRAs make is that breast cancer (a cancer that predominantly, though not entirely, affects women) receives substantially more money in terms of research funding than prostate cancer, despite similar numbers of people dying from each.  First I’ll review some of the specific claims made, I’ll look at the data on funding, then we can delve into a few stats on the impacts of these two cancer types (bear with me!).  I’ve also included some more detail on whether younger men are more at risk from prostate cancer as an appendix for those who are interested.Read More »

Is Correactology just chiropractic in a funny hat?

Correactology: it’s all about feet, apparently…

I’ve blogged about Correactology before, and that post has been pretty popular (for one of my posts, anyway…) so I thought I would revisit the topic.  Supply and demand and all that jazz…  Also, I was moved by a comment on the earlier post (reproduced in full below the fold), where a woman described a terrible experience with a Correactologist because she (a) had not been familiar with the nonsense treatment before, and (b) had nowhere to go to complain (the particular practitioner she was treated by is actually a Director of the “Canadian Association of Correactology Practitioners”).  Helping people like this is one of the reasons that I set up this blog:Read More »

A skeptical take on allergy testing

RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!! (photo by H. Zell)

This is the second of three segments that I presented on The Reality Check, Canada’s weekly skeptical podcast.  On episode #205, I talked about allergy testing.  Advances in medicine have completely eradicated diseases such as smallpox, and we are well on our way to doing the same for polio.  Yet more diseases are firmly under control through most of the developed world through the use of vaccines.  However, as we remove some causes of ill health, we notice that others have grown in prominence over the past few decades.  Allergies are a good example of one of these increasingly diagnosed conditions, but the general public tends to have a fairly poor understanding of what allergies are, how they come about and how they can be diagnosed.Read More »

New Ben Goldacre book on clinical trials and academic misconduct

I’ve been working on getting the blog up and running again, and I have a few posts in the pipeline.  However, this topic is one close to my heart and I wanted to post on it as soon as possible.  I have blogged about the limitations of clinical trials and the need for clinical trial registration before.  Ben Goldacre has published a new book (“Bad Pharma: How Drugs Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients“) on precisely this problem, and gave a recent TED talk that frames the issue brilliantly.  As he says “tell everyone that this is a problem, and that it hasn’t been fixed”:

Image credit: Tom Varco