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Power bands prove not so powerful

Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 21:02

Power bracelets claim they help you achieve optimum strength, speed and balance, something any sports aid aspires to, but the question any consumer ought to be asking is if the product can meet the claim.

 
Many companies have begun selling a sports aid that allegedly improves upon the body's natural ability.  Such products have gained the endorsement of athletes, and some of the businesses have been supporting cancer research with their profits. These are impressive credentials, but do these products have any basis in scientific, as opposed to rhetorical, fact?
   
These bracelets, which go by names such as Life Strength, Power Bands, and Power Bracelets, claim to work by augmenting the natural frequency at which the body resonates. No specific frequency is cited however, nor is their method of determining this frequency.
   
Using a "mylar hologram" the bracelet companies claim they can 
store the vibrations of this frequency in order to adjust the body's natural levels and improve "strength, balance and energy." These specific claims come from the Power Balance website.
   
There are several problems with these claims. Firstly the body does not have a natural frequency. "According to a review of Energy Medicine,"  by Dr. Harriet Hall published in Skeptic Magazine 2005,  crystalline structures can vibrate, and so can the tympanic membranes and vocal chords in humans. While you can find the frequency in a crystal glass, and a singer could shatter it, you couldn't imagine shattering a cat.   
    
For a more common sense comparison, imagine trying to keep a vibration resonating for an extended period of time, especially when contained. Go to the Eccles building and ask to strike a tuning fork, see how long it keeps going. Then try the same thing, but hold it against your wrist.
   
This all, of course, depends on the existence of energy fields which are supposed to "surround every human being," like PowerBalance.com claims. However, there is no scientific evidence these fields exist,  Hall said. 
   
In writing this review, extensive research was done to find proof of the claims for the Power Band's reliance on human energy fields, however their site leads to no outside sources verifying their claims, nor does any external source. No reputable scientific source had any evidence for a human energy field, and the majority scientific opinion is that this field does not exist. 
   
In support of the bands Ivins resident Lesa Cogburn, salesperson of M & S Turquoise, said the bands have helped the health of her friend, who had difficulty walking. They have sold around 120 units in the last 2 months, to all age groups, she said.
   
"Most of our customers for the bands are the elderly, who use them to ease their pain from arthritis and such," Cogburn said. "Don't get me wrong though, young people buy them too, they use them for sports."
   
Richard Saunders, co-host of the Skeptic Zone Podcast, performed a double blind test on a T.V. show in 2009 with cards in paper sleeves. There were six cards and six subjects, and neither the presenter nor the subjects knew which sleeve contained a real mylar holographic strip. The head of the Australian branch of Power Balance failed to determine which was the authentic card five out of five times. 
   
While the bands can cause the perception of improved sports performance or pain relief, that sensation can be easily explained by the placebo effect. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines the placebo effect as: "the beneficial effect in a patient following a particular treatment that arises from the patient's expectations concerning the treatment rather than from the treatment itself." Generally in science when a product does not work any more than a placebo in its place the product is deemed to be ineffective.
   
Speaking of the placebo effect: while I was gathering info on the power bracelets, Mitch Hoyt, a freshman general education from Hurricane, and manager of the LifeStrength bracelets kiosk in the mall, used a test to show me the increase in strength and balance the bracelets provide. 
   
He had me raise my arms perpendicular to my body, so I was like a cross. Then he had me lift one leg, and pushed down on the arm on the same side as that leg. I quickly fell over. He then had me hold the bracelet in my other arm and did the same thing. This time I stood solidly. I have to admit it was incredibly convincing. 
   
At least it was convincing till I went online for more research, then I found out how it worked. The technique is called Applied Kinesiology, and has been used for many alternative medicines. It was first used in an attempt to justify homeopathy, by showing that people were weaker when put in contact with an allergen in a vial. 
   
This is the way it works: The first time Hoyt pushed down my arm, he pushed it slightly away from my body, while the second time he pushed it slightly toward my body and closer to my elbow joint, reducing the fulcrum and thus greatly reducing the effectiveness against my center of gravity. You can see a video of how this works at http:// www. youtube. com /watch?v= Piu75P8sxTo&feature=related.
   
The LifeStrength bands claim they work because of a "Syonic Charge" according to a placard at their kiosk and that the bands do this based on ground up tourmaline Hoyt said.
   
While there is nothing published in a scientific journal about Syonic charges, there is a breadth of geological information on most known minerals, so I spoke with the geology professors here on campus.
   
"No minerals have magic properties," Dixie Geology Professor Kelly Bringhurst said. "Nothing can make you stronger simply by wearing it. Sure tourmaline carries piezoelectric charge, but thats the sort of thing that runs watches and calculators."
   
On the other hand the Power Balance bands are supposed to work based on the idea of holographic disk vibration storage. The company markets their product with the slogan "Performance Technology."
   
It was this claim that landed Power Balance in trouble with the Australian government in December when the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission ruled that Power Balance did not live up to it's claims. 
   
The undertaking of the suit made two major points: that "Power Balance holograms are embedded with frequencies that react positively with your body's natural energy field to improve balance, strength and flexibility," and among others this claim is called a representation.
   
The second point the undertaking made was "At the time of making the Representations, and as at the date of this Undertaking, Power Balance Australia did not and does not have:(a) any credible scientific evidence that supports the Representations; and therefore (b) any reasonable grounds for making the Representations."
   
On their Australian website (http://www.powerbalance.com/australia/ca) the company admits there is no scientific evidence supporting their product. According to the Australian site: "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." 
   
However, on the sites for all other countries they have a different message. 
   
"Our products are based on the idea of optimizing the body's natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many holistic and Eastern philosophies. Frankly, we know there will always be critics of new technologies, but our products are used by those with open minds who experience real results."
   
Power Balance is now being subjected to a class-action lawsuit in the United States as well, coming from the L.A. County Superior Court. More information on this can be found at the website http://www.powerbalanceclassaction.com/. 
   
I wrote e-mails to the supplers of power bracelets, both in China, posing as a start-up fitness company inquiring about rates on the bands. The cost of production for each bracelet when ordered in a large unit is $1.10. I'll say that again: the $30 miracle magnetic resonance bracelet on your wrists was made for $1.10. And the representative said she could go much lower if I wanted to order bulk.
   
In St. George the LifeStrength bands go for $25 with a $5 discount if you bring them an old wristband from them or a competitor. The Power Bracelets go for $29.95, and the Power Bracelet I bought at M&S  was the lowest cost, still $6 for a $1 piece of silicone.
   
There's something to be said about the placebo effect, it's very powerful. Maybe you need to spend $30 to motivate yourself to workout harder, or feel better. But when you look at a product that is so incredibly and willfully misleading, can you really support them? I hope the lack of scientific evidence, the evidence of the scientific absurdity, the gross price gouging and the PR campaign to control damage on their Australian lawsuit will convince you to toss off your band for good. And if not, there's a good chance I have 400 or so shipping in from Xiamen City, China in a few days, so let me tell you about this great product that will make you perform faster, stronger and better.

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2 comments

Taylor Grin
Thu Dec 1 2011 01:29
The truth of the matter is that an ionized field has nothing to do with muscle strength. The only ions that effect them are potassium, a lack thereof causes an increase in lactic acid which is the reason you feel the burn when you work out. Furthermore if you think that you can maintain a high degree of ionic charge in anything as small as that rubber bracelet for an extended duration, you need to check your physics. Start with Ohm's Law.

Yes, I am. See here for some evidence against your aura statement: http://www.skepdic.com/kirlian.html.
As to the rotation technique, that falls under the same category of kinesiological misdirection that the center-of-gravity trick relies upon. See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpLt0oUWfOk

What exactly are you claiming is the difference between an "Energy that surrounds all people" and an "aura?"

Ultimately what you're arguing is multiplying by 0. If the Power Balance band doesn't work (not due to intensity, but because there's no science) and the Lifestrength claims to work on the same but more powerful means, than it can't possibly work either. Both are based in pseudoscience!

DR
Tue Nov 29 2011 23:49
Seeing as you based your personal conclusions on one test where he pushed down on your arm, it is too bad that the person did not have you do the same test that I did for myself.

I was told me to twist my body as far to one side with my arms in front of me and see how far I could cork my body. After I was satisfied with how far I could go, he put the bracelet on my hand and told me to try again. I was shocked how much further I could twist my body and definitely was rather surprised.

He did not manipulate me in anyway (and I was consciously thinking about the Placebo effect), he simply gave me a test to try and my conclusion was that this band improved my flexibility. This was also with a "Power Balance" bracelet, and unfortunately not with a Lifestrength bracelet which has shown that it produces an extremely higher level of negative ionized charge than the other bracelets out there, so my results could have been even greater.

"This all, of course, depends on the existence of energy fields which are supposed to "surround every human being," like PowerBalance.com claims. However, there is no scientific evidence these fields exist, Hall said. "

Auras' surround every human being so perhaps this is what PowerBalance was trying to get at. Just because Science has not taken the time to prove it, does not make them any less real. There is equipment that can take pictures of peoples' Auras, and I have met a couple people now in my life who can see them so distinctly around people that they feel like they are outcasts when they learn that most people do not see them.

Why don't you go check out the fan page for "Lifestrength"? Are you prepared to call over 25,000 people a sucker?





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