Outrageous! Power Balance

11 Jan

Recently, I came across an article on the BBC website. The article talks about the Power Balance bracelets worn by some of the England cricket team as in the image below.

Whilst I had never heard of the product before, it turns out they are worn by many sports stars to improve balance strength and flexibility. According to the Power Balance website

Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many Eastern philosophies. The hologram in Power Balance is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body.

Mmmmm… Interesting! Here is an extract from an Australian current affairs programme explaining more.

That really is amazing. So just how does it work? Well as stated on their website

Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many…

Oh hang on, I think I already mentioned that. Yes, unfortunately that short statement is the closest Power Balance comes to a scientific explanation. Indeed, the company offers no real evidence for their spectacular claims. Of course, if they did so, they would surely be in line for a Nobel prize, having discovered previously unknown laws of physics!

After broadcasting what you saw in the last video, Today Tonight had another piece on Power Balance. This time however, they actually conduct a proper (if somewhat limited) test. Whilst I don’t want to give away the results, notice how the caption at the beginning of the clip has changed from ‘MAGIC MAGNET’ to ‘MIND POWER’.

An investigation by the BBC also reported similar results. Both the video clip and the BBC report talk briefly about the amazing power of the placebo effect. As Ben Goldacre often says, surely this explanation is far more interesting than any silly talk about ‘body energy resonance’.

You may (quite rightly in my opinion) ask what is wrong with selling a product that has the kind of effect some people are claiming, even if that effect is the result of a placebo? I am not going to try to answer that question here. What I do want to do though is to encourage people to think a little more about claims such as those made by companies such as Power Balance and the repetition of these claims in the media. Once you do that, videos like this become a bit less convincing.

Finally, I would just like to share something I found amusing.

Report a fake

I think I just might fill in that form now!

For an explanation on how the tricks applied by Power Balance work, watch this video.

Here is Ben Goldacre talking a bit more about the placebo effect.

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2 Responses to “Outrageous! Power Balance”

  1. BabyBird January 11, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    Well researched blog! :) I remember in university, we had a course called Psychology of Belief and Skepticism. LOVED that stuff. One of the lecture topics was on this kind of product… the “Q-Ray” bracelet. Our professor showed the infomercial for it, paused it at various moments to show how ridiculous it was.. the “expert” speaking about it had a bunch of random hokey letters after his name to make it look like he had all these PHD-esque degrees..

  2. waitingforastart January 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Interesting post, well done!

    As far as the bracelet is concerned it’s less of a Power Balance and more of a Power of Advertising. :) This is not the first time I’ve heard about “magic bracelets”. I remember everyone wearing special bracelets that were supposed to heal you, when I was a teen. Grown up, intelligent people would swear up and down to their special magic powers that cured the wearer from everything beginning with headaches and ending with quite serious illnesses.

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