Can these bargain bracelets boost oxygen supply and immunity?

I said last week that I hoped the Sense about Science Ask for Evidence campaign would encourage me to contact companies to challenge some of the incredible advertising claims  I encounter on such a regular basis.

That morning, I had received a promotional email about an impressive discount on an apparently miraculous ‘Ion Balance’ bracelet which it was claimed could improve circulation and immunity by emitting negative ions. Could it really be true..?

I had previously read about similar sports band products here and here. I was aware for example that in Australia, Power Balance had been forced to 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.






Are Ion Balance Bracelets More Effective Than Power Balance?

Not all sports bracelets are the same, as a commenter under this blog pointed out. Although (for good reason) I could find little information on the Power Balance website regarding the supposed mechanism by which they may work, from reading this BBC News article, I believe it is something implausible involving a hologram resonating with the body’s ‘energy field’.

The NPB Ion Balance bracelets don’t contain holograms, but germanium stones. Can the germanium stones work in ways the holograms do not? Is there a plausible mechanism for this? Can the manufacturers provide evidence?

According to their website, not only do the bracelets improve circulation and immunity, they also boost the body’s oxygen supply and make you feel reinvigorated by destroying damaging free radicals. They also, apparently, harmonize the body’s natural and electrical fields to produce one of the most powerful complementary health products available to buy today.

I’m not sure exactly what they mean by all this and I haven’t got a problem with my oxygen supply. But surely I’d have to be daft not to spend a mere £10 on such a miracle product? I decided to Ask for Evidence, and emailed the company responsible.

The reply came the following morning:

Hi,

The benefits of Germanium are widely researched and publicised on the web, a have attached a few links below:

http://www.arthritistrust.org/Articles/Germanium.pdf

http://www.iglobehealthcare.com/vital-ion/132-germanium-benefits.html

http://www.thehealthierlife.co.uk/natural-health-articles/sleeping-problems/germanium-mineral-deficiency-insomnia-00883.html

Kind regards

The attached links did not provide evidence that the products work, nor did they suggest any mechanism for this, as I explained in my reply (sent later that day):

Hi,

Thank you for your swift reply.

I have read the articles you attached and I’m afraid I remain unconvinced of the claims.

Firstly, the articles do not explain how products such as the Ion Balance bracelets are believed to work but relate to germanium in general. For example, I could find no explanation of the mechanism by which the bracelets can improve circulation or immunity or boost the oxygen supply. Secondly, I do not believe the linked articles constitute ‘robust scientific evidence’. By this I mean results from high quality research (such as placebo controlled blinded trials) on such products.

The Arthritis Trust of America (responsible for your first link) state on their website that “Only those who are inexperienced or uninformed about the nature of “research” expect that “research” applies to just academics or large, well-funded laboratories. Anyone who patiently, carefully, systematically makes diligent inquiry or examination of some field of interest, who attempts to establish facts or principles that expose truth, is doing “research.” Under this broad but accurate definition of “research” every one of us engages in genuine “research” during some aspect of our lives.” This type of ‘research’ can be unreliable and unscientific. The article itself is problematic and promotes ingestion of germanium despite known problems with toxicity.

I note that the other links you provided are from companies who sell similar products. Again, I do not believe the information on those sites to be reliable or to constitute ‘robust scientific evidence’. The second link even states “While scientific research has not been conclusive, some people are said to have experienced the various benefits’”.  A list of supposed benefits follows, most of them pretty incredible. Once more, these relate to germanium itself, rather than bracelets.

The third link does not relate to bracelets either, but rather promotes germanium supplements, describing germanium as a trace element which is “indispensable not only for good health but also for your very existence”. In fact it is not thought to be essential to health and the US Food and Drug Administration’s research has concluded that germanium supplements present a “potential human health hazard”.

I would be grateful if you could provide robust evidence that the bracelets themselves provide the benefits advertised. I would also be interested in an explanation of the mechanism by which they are believed to work.

Thanks and regards,

A week has gone by since that last email and unfortunately the £10 deal expired while I was still waiting for evidence. But all is not lost…

Ionic Balance – Another Bargain Bracelet..?

Luckily, just this morning I had another promotional email advertising a £9 deal on the Ionic Balance Band,  which utilises the unique healing powers of the gemstone Tourmaline.  According to the Ionic Balance website, the negative ions emitted by these products give all manner of wonderful benefits:

I am naturally sceptical of these claims, not least because Ionic Balance use Live Blood Analysis to demonstrate an improvement in pH balance.

So before I invest £9 in this product, I will Ask for Evidence.

I will report back my findings.

_____________________________________________________

UPDATE 26/10/11

I am evidently not the only person with concerns about the above claims. Following at least two separate June complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority about Ionic Balance (neither of which was from me), an adjudication was published today. It stated that the advertising shown above must not appear again in its current form. Ionic Balance had provided the ASA with no less than twenty eight documents in a failed attempt to substantiate their incredible efficacy claims. They were also told not to refer to medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.

UPDATE 05/09/12

Ionic power bands have been in the news, thanks to the Merseyside Skeptics Society. They enlisted a semi-professional rugby player to pit the ‘real’ Shuzi band against an identical, deactivated band. Despite marketing claims that the product aids a player’s performance, the demonstration showed that when a player is unsure which band he’s wearing, the product makes no discernible difference.

It was also reported yesterday (on 21st Floor site, here), that Jedward are promoting ‘Jedpower’ ionic bands and selling them to fans via the JustaSec site, here.

A disclaimer states

We do not make any claims for medical benefits from the Just a Sec Bands.  Our products are not intended to prevent or cure any disease or illness.

However, this contradicts the misleading information regarding the human body, electronic devices, ‘toxic substances’ and ions which is to be found elsewhere on the site.

UPDATE 27/09/12

dumbbellfit.co.uk have been added to the ASA’s list of non-compliant online advertisers for failure to remove misleading advertising claims for No Problem Ion Balance bands.

Ionic Balance are also on the list. They were added in December of last year for failure to comply with the adjudication mentioned above.

27 responses to “Can these bargain bracelets boost oxygen supply and immunity?

  1. Shortly after publishing this post I received yet another email promoting such a bracelet – this time from Living Social, promoting ‘Equilibrium Bandz’ (http://livingsocial.com/deals/134993-sports-band?msdc_id=73&ref=29_MANDeal092511_73_1857email).

    These seem very much like the Ionic Balance ones, being based on tourmaline (and negative ions), and using the same before and after images (thermography and live blood analysis) on their website, to demonstrate apparent benefit. I will get in touch and report back my findings.

  2. Haha brilliant :) You seem to have tapped a rich seam of bracelets which are based on elements in the periodic table or gemstones! Given that there are a fair few elements, and gemstones, I’d not be that surprised if someone rustles up a product for each one before you’ve finished getting a response from the first ;)

  3. None of the bracelet companies have been able to give me any satisfactory evidence. One of them did email to say he could provide ‘studies’ but when I asked him to forward them he said he did not have time and that I would have to ring him for a ‘frank telephone call’ – this prospect was not appealing.

    I would report them all to the Advertising Standards Authority if it wasn’t for the fact that the ASA are already too busy to properly investigate what I feel are more important complaints – for example my outstanding Live Blood Analysis and colloidal silver complaints.

  4. I am still totally confused and no closer to understanding if they work or not???

  5. I don’t think they work (in the way they are advertised) and the companies I contacted were not able to convince me.

    The only way I would expect them to work is as a ‘placebo’. For example, someone may feel more confident playing sport when wearing such a band due to their confidence in the product. They may then perform better in that sport as a result.

  6. Yesterday, Groupon ran a nationwide promotion on NPB IonBalance bracelets: http://www.groupon.co.uk/deals/national-deal/npb-ion-balance/1284781

    I hope the many visitors who found this post via search engines yesterday found the information useful.

    The deal has now sold out and has apparently sold 8695 ‘Deals’ – at either one bracelet for £10 or two for £17. This amounts to a staggering total of between £86,950 and £147,815!

  7. I am evidently not the only person with concerns about the above claims. Following at least two separate June complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority about Ionic Balance (neither of which was from me), an adjudication was published today: http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2011/10/Ionic-Balance/SHP_ADJ_162457.aspx

    It stated that the advertising (which included that shown above) must not appear again in its current form. Ionic Balance had provided the ASA with no less than TWENTY EIGHT documents in a failed attempt to substantiate their incredible efficacy claims. They were also told not to refer to medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.

  8. Hi, I was about to purchase one of these bracelets from Groupon for £10 but decided to do a little research before and thankfully came across your site. How very pleased I am that I did.
    Your research has not only saved me £10 but also given me an insight into how easy it is to be ‘conned’.
    Regards
    Gilly

  9. Gilly – thanks for your comment. I’m glad to have saved someone some money!

  10. cant deny they look cool mate. £10 what a steal….

  11. Call me a cynic, but surely, if they worked, they would be flying off the shelves (literally), and they wouldn’t have to discount them.

  12. Ionic Balance have now been added to the ASA’s list of Misleading Online Advertisers:

    http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Misleading-online-advertisers/Ionic-Balance.aspx

  13. Pingback: The Advertising Standards Authority and me | Josephine Jones

  14. Pingback: British Airways put snakes on a plane! | Josephine Jones

  15. Ionic Balance are still on the list – which is has been renamed as ‘non-compliant’ online advertisers:

    http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Non-compliant-online-advertisers/Ionic-Balance.aspx

  16. The IonPulse bracelet is currently being promoted by kgb deals. The product itself and the advertising look remarkably similar to the NPB Ionbalance bracelet:

    http://www.ionpulse.co.uk/index.html
    http://www.kgbdeals.co.uk/national/deals/86843/urban-ion-band—ionpulse—national
    http://www.npb-ionbalance.com/index.html

  17. An ionic watch similar to the bracelets described above is mocked and described as a ‘scam’ on Shark Tank (the US version of Dragons’ Den):

    http://skepchick.org/2012/03/power-balance-esque-scammer-gets-mocked/

  18. Dont you think your all just taking this a little too seriously. I dont have any affiliation to these bracelet companies but do understand how difficult and costly it is to get proper clinical trials conducted. If people buy them and claim to feel relief in some area then I would say that it is £10 well spent even if it is just a placebo effect! You seem to be on a crusade if you ask me and by claiming that they DONT work doesnt this make you as bad as the companies claiming they DO!!!

    • I’m not claiming they don’t work (though as I said in a comment above, my suspicion is that they work as a placebo). The companies mentioned are making some pretty bold health claims which aren’t supported by evidence. I’m not suggesting they should conduct clinical trials but merely refrain from making unsubstantiated claims.

  19. I have got one of these bracelets and had to take it off as i felt after extremely tired after 2 days, is it normal?
    nina

    • I am very doubtful indeed that the tiredness is related in any way to the bracelet. I wouldn’t expect the bracelets to have any effect, really. I hope you’re soon feeling better and if in any doubt I suggest you consult your doctor.

  20. Infinity Pro UK is another silicone/tourmaline band which apparently releases negative ions, which are supposed to have a wide range of health benefits. I don’t believe there is any reliable evidence to back up the following claims:

    ” Our Infinity Pro Power Bands release Negative Ions, Far Infrared Rays and Alpha Waves which can give all number of health benefits to the wearer:

    INCREASED ENERGY
    DEEPER SLEEP
    MORE FOCUS
    INCREASED ALERTNESS
    BETTER BALANCE
    IMPROVED CIRCULATION

    FASTER RECOVERY
    ENHANCED STRENGTH
    BETTER FLEXIBILITY
    IMPROVED RESPONSE
    STABILISED BLOOD PRESSURE
    REDUCED FATIGUE

    BOOSTED IMMUNE SYSTEM
    REDUCED STRESS
    ARTHRITIS RELIEF
    FASTER MUSCLE REPAIR
    AID IN RELAXATION
    GREATER WELLBEING”

    http://uk.infinitypro.com/

  21. oh my god it just 10 pounds might as well buy it and if nothing happens throw it in the bin. Lifes simple.

  22. curiosity kill and lesson learn if they don’t work. If the do …. its good for health.

  23. Hi,
    I just got referred here after contacting Sense about Science about Infinity Pro UK. There was an offer for them in a mainstream Fitness magazine I bought yesterday. After going on the website yesterday they no longer that the bracelet is beneficial in any way, they just claim that the Tourmaline crystal produces negative ions (and far infra-red and alpha waves) and note on a separate page that negative ions can counteract positive ions and free radicals. The inference was that the bracelets counteract the effects of pollution, toxins in processed food and smoking: that’s quite dangerous, since someone might buy a bracelet instead of making sensible lifestyle changes. So I guess they’ve toned down their claims, but they’re still active and still inferring that these bracelets are beneficial.

    Excellent blog – keep up the good work! What shall we do now if they’re not actually making claims that can be disproved?

    • It may still be worth submitting a complaint to the ASA. The onus is on the advertiser to substantiate claims, not on the complainant/ASA to disprove them. They may also rule an ad is misleading even if it doesn’t make outright claims, but merely implies something which can’t be substantiated.

      Here’s how you complain:

      http://www.asa.org.uk/complaints/how-to-complain.aspx

      I think it’s also worth blogging about such products because people often Google the product name looking for reviews and may then find the blog and think more carefully before investing.

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