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Powerbalance Bands, scientific miracle or scam?

Recently I began to notice a strange fashion trend apearing around me. Little rubber wrist bands with a shiny hologramatic sticker imbedded in the top. I was intrigued, was this some new form of status symbol? A trinket to show that you are a member of an elite club? Or did these bracelets have some even more macarbre meaning? Perhaps they were the symbol of a seperatist religious cult.

When I finally asked someone who was wearing one about their meaning, I found out the truth was much more mundane. These bands were called “Power Balance Bracelets” a magic charm that supposedly gives the wearer greater balance and power.
They work, as my friend breathlessly explained by enhancing positive vibrations and dampening negative disharmonic vibrations. Apparently doing this will help your body to attain peak performance potential.

I am personally a natural sceptic and simply nodded and smiled (ocassionally throwing  in a “Wow ions, fascinating” for good measure.) My friend assured me that to hear about the power of the band was not enough and that the effects had to be experienced to be believed. I consented to undergo a test.

I stood with both feet together and my arms out, my friend now acting as a demonstrator pushed down on my left arm instructing me to resist this push downward as much as I could, I was unable to resist for more than a few seconds before my arm was defeated. Now I was told to hold the bracelet in my hand and the test was repeated, amazingly I was able to withstand the pressure on my arm for more than double the time of the first attempt.

In the second test I held my hands together behind my back and stood with my feet together. I was told that my friend was about to push down on my hands and I was to try and resist falling backwards without moving my feet. As soon as they began to push I was unable to keep my balance. I repeated this test while holding the band and as in the first demonstration I was able to hold my balance much more easily. My friend had an “I told you so” look on their face, apparently the Power Balance Bracelets had proved their point, or maybe not…

I said earlier that I was something of a sceptic, I will now correct that and say I am a complete sceptic. The tests with the band only made me more intrigued by the band and I began my research. I started with the science behind the bands, as my friends description of how they supposedly worked had seemed a little vague.

I thought the logical place to begin was the Power Balance Website, on the website under the how it works section the explanation given is:
“POWER BALANCE’S Mylar Holographic Disk (the same substance used to keep static electricity from damaging electrical components) has been imbedded with an electrical frequency that restores your body’s electrical balance, promoting a free exchange of positive and negative ions and align your body’s energy pathways.
The high density Disk acts much like a switch, resonating within your system and turning on your energy field while it clears the pathways so the electro-chemical exchange functions like the well-tuned generator it was designed to be.
When the static Power Balance Hologram comes in contact with your body’s energy field, it begins to resonate in accordance with each individual’s biological, creating a harmonic loop that optimizes your energy field and maintains maximum energy flow while clearing the pathways so the electro-chemical exchange functions like the well-tuned generator it was meant to be.”

Well, yes, obviously that makes perfect sense, glad they could simplify things for me. Now you may be aware that I am in no way a scientist, however that information made no sense to me, so I decided to google away and find any information that I could to simplify this theory. What I found however was similarily confusing explanations with a lack of eveidence to back it up.

Somewhere along the way I came accross this quote from  Harry Radcliff power balance rep. “It’s all about the test. In the stores, when people ask me what it is, I don’t even explain. Just do the test. I’ve done it with thousands of people, and 99%…they’re blown away.”

as well as “It’s a big step concept to get your head around, but the bottom line is, you don’t need to understand it for it to work. I do presentations all over South East Asia, so instead of trying to explain anything, I grab someone and just do the test. In Indonesia, every time, they turn to their mates and call me a witchdoctor.”

Ok, so, the test. Lets look at the test. These types of demonstrations are done using something called Applied Kinesiology which is a “science” used by many chiropractors and other alternative medical practioners, wikipedia describes it as: A practice within the realm of alternative medicine and is different from “kinesiology,” which is the scientific study of human movement. AK has been criticized on theoretical and empirical grounds,[7] and characterized as pseudoscience[8] and quackery.[7] With only anecdotal accounts providing positive evidence for the efficacy of the practice, a review of peer-reviewed studies concluded that the “evidence to date does not support the use of [AK] for the diagnosis of organic disease or pre/subclinical conditions.”

Whilst researching applied Kinesiology I came accross this video on youtube

I found this video to be very interesting and useful in understanding how these demonstrations are pulled off. So to summarize, if you really feel that you need to spend $60.00 to give you some confidence in the abilities that you already have, be my guest. Hell, where do I sign up for a franchise? Or maybe not, there have been a number of these so called magic cures that have come and gone over the years, all with similar “scientific” themes. Take the case of the Balance bracelet a metal bracelet that was supposedly electro-polarized by an undisclosed process. The makers of this product claimed that the bracelet had pain relieving qualities the Federal Trade Commission did not agree and the manufacurers were ordered to pay $400,000 due to their deceptive claims. I give powerbalance a couple more years at most before they face the same fate and another shoddy product comes to take their place. as always, a fool and his money are easily parted.