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Power Balance Bands

April 28, 2011

I’ve been pimping the Placebo Bands for a while, as a sarcastic alternative to the Power Balance bracelets.  However, in the circle of people I usually associate with, I meet relatively few people who actually believe that the Power Balance bands actually work.  Until recently.  By pure coincidence I’ve bumped into maybe 6 or 8 people in the past couple of weeks who have “drunk the Kool-Aid”, so to speak.  In the ensuing discussions, I have completely failed to eloquently voice my  point of view.  What follows is my attempt to re-evaluate what I think about the Power Balance bands, and put it all into words.

The Power Balance bands are silicone bracelets with embedded holograms.  They are supposed to increase balance, strength, and flexibility.  Their web site used to say that the band worked by resonating with the bodies natural frequency of 7.something Hz.  Now their web site says, “The thin polyester film hologram is programmed through a proprietary process, which is designed to mimic Eastern philosophies that have been around for hundreds of years.

In the spirit of my previous post, What Would It Take, I had to ask myself, “what would it take to convince me that the Power Balance bracelets actually work?”  So here it is, here’s what it would take to convince me:

Placebo Bands

  1. A plausible description for how it works.
  2. Multiple scientific studies that are placebo controlled, double-blinded, and have large groups of test subjects.

These requirements are the same (or less strict) than any proper medical device or drug that is going through the qualification and approval process– and I don’t see why the Power Balance bands should be any different.  But, I’m feeling generous today.  Maybe it’s because Spring is in the air.  Or maybe I just don’t want to write about multiple studies.  So, for the sake of this blog post, here’s my requirements:

  1. A single scientific study done double-blinded and placebo controlled.  Any size of test subjects.

How’s that for lowering the bar?  Surely the Power Balance company, who has made hundreds of millions of dollars, have done at least one scientific study, right?

Pubmed.gov is a repository of lots and lots of medical studies and is ran by the National Institute of Health.  If I search for “acupuncture” there I get 16,412 hits.  “Chiropractic” returns 5,169 papers.  “Coffee enema” give me 21 papers.  And “homeopathic” finds 4,731 hits.  When I search for “power balance hologram” I get zero.  Zilch.  Nothing.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so particular about my search engine.  Maybe pubmed.gov is too high-brow for the Power Balance people.  So off to Google I go.  When I search for “power balance scientific study” I get 1.3 million hits.  That’s more like it!  I scanned through approximately the first 50 links that Google returned.  Of those 50, exactly 1 was pro-Power Balance and that was some guy saying that, “it works for me”.

I did another Google Search for “power balance placebo double blind” and got almost 70k hits.  Reviewing the to 50 or so hits showed nothing that was favorable to Power Balance.  Certainly no scientific study, and hardly any anecdotal testimony to their effectiveness.

Could it be that there simply isn’t any credible scientific evidence that shows that the Power Balance bands actually work?  Then I ran across this web page on the Power Balance web site, in which they say,  “We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims“.

So it wasn’t my lame Googling skills, the evidence simply does not exist!  My requirement was a single scientific study showing that they are effective, and the company itself admitted that there isn’t one.

Next, I looked for studies showing the ineffectiveness of the Power Balance bands.   Here’s what I found:

  1. A study at the University of Texas concludes “that the Power Balance® bands did not have an effect on strength, flexibility, or balance.”  This study was double-blinded and placebo controlled.
  2. The American Council on Excersize shows Power Balance bands to be ineffective in a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study.
  3. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology did a study showing that the Power Balance bands do nothing.  I should mention that this was from their Chiropractic department– which is a bit like Charlie Sheen calling you crazy.
  4. Here’s a video posted on YouTube by ESPN, which covers the study done by the University of Wisconsin.
  5. A Clip from the Australian TV show Today Tonight, where they do a small double-blind test on camera.  Very damning for Power Balance!

It seems that any company knowingly promoting an expensive product that doesn’t work should be illegal, and many people would agree.   In fact, there have been several lawsuits around the world focusing on fraudulent advertising.  And there is one class action lawsuit here in the United States, http://www.powerbalanceclassaction.com/.

Conclusion:

While re-evaluating the Power Balance bracelets I tried to keep an open mind.  I tried to take in any new evidence that I might have missed before.  I lowered my expectations to only a single scientific study, and I completely removed the requirement for a plausible theory of how it works.  Power Balance completely failed even these minimal requirements.  On the other hand, there are at least four scientific studies showing it doesn’t work.

Now are you convinced that it doesn’t work?  No?  Well, what would it take to convince you?

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One comment

  1. Thorough post.
    Thanks!



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