Power Balance introduced their hologram bracelet “designed to work with your body’s natural energy field” in 2007. Since then many athletes have been photographed wearing the bracelets in competition including Shaq, Drew Brees, Ricky Romero, and surfers Bruce and Andy Irons. A few triathletes have also been sporting the bracelets during competition and not doing poorly either!
There have been many people who wrote to [email protected] talking about the benefits of wearing the bracelets – everything from better balance to reduced pain and better mobility. A paraplegic said he did not notice better balance, but “just felt better”. And yes there are those who say it is just a scam.
When Power Balance company executives presented the product to Rawlings execs they focused on better balance and flexibility- hence their tests. They did not take credit for many of the the reported side benefits. Rawlings (in the baseball, softball, football and basketball markets) now sells the bracelets with their logo on them in sporting stores around the country.
On December 22, 2010 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said that Power Balance Australia was in breach of s52 of the Trade Practices Act of 1974. It found that the claims made were not supported by any credible scientific evidence. As a result the company said they will:
- not make any claims about its products that are not supported by a written report from an independent testing body that meets certain standards;
- offer a refund to consumers who feel they have been misled;
- publish corrective advertising to prevent consumers from being misled in the future;
- amend the Australian website to remove any misleading representations;
- remove the words ‘performance technology’ from the brand itself; and
- implement a compliance program.
On the same day a study (published December 22 in PLoS ONE) was released in which patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were given placebos. What was interesting about this study was that the subjects knew they were taking a placebo. For most of us, the “placebo effect” is the same as the power of positive thinking. You think the drug works and therefore it does. This study found that even if the patients knew it was a placebo (just a sugar pill) it still worked!
There are studies that say up to 50% of doctors use placebos with their patients. This, of course, brings up issues of ethics. Harvard Medical School associate professor of medicine Ted Kaptchuk teamed up with colleagues for this most recent placebo effect study. “Conventional wisdom says that in order for a placebo to work you have to convince the patient that they are taking a real drug,” he told MedPage Today. By the end of the trial, nearly twice as many patients treated with the placebo reported adequate symptom relief as compared to the control group (59 percent vs. 35 percent). The researchers said this may have a big impact on patients with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and possibly depression and anxiety since they are affected by the mind body connection.
So is the Power Balance Bracelet a scam? We won’t know for sure until scientific studies are done. It will be interesting to see how the marketing campaigns change in Australia going forward. As of December 23, the US website still uses the phrase ‘performance technology’. It will probably mirror the changes we see with Activia in the states. Dannon will pay $21 million in fines (reported Dec 15, 2010) for overstating the health claims of its probiotic yogurt products. Marketeers too often head down a slippery slope of ethics. As a result of the IBS study they may be able to just say this product will make you feel how you want it to make you feel and make millions. Based on the many great reports from wearers of the Power Balance bracelet the company could say give us $30 wear it and if you want to feel better, then feel better.
Keep letting me know how you feel! Stories are welcome at [email protected]