Friday, February 1, 2013

All claim, no gain

Apparently there's some big football game this Sunday, so the topic of performance enhancers came up on a radio show I was listening to. Different kinds of water, bracelets, etc. Sadly, the people on the show were actually entertaining the claims of the manufacturers. Quite sad really, since most of the products are obvious frauds when it comes to the claims they make. So lets take a look at a few...

Oxygenated Water

Sellers of oxygenated water claim that it increases oxygen levels in the blood. This increase of oxygen means more energy and better health. They also claim that it will increase your immune system, reduce your risk of developing cancer, regulate body temperature, moisten tissues, and protect organs. But it any of that true? Well, lets look at what water is... At the molecular level, it is two hydrogen molecules fused with one oxygen molecule (H2O). Yet here we have this product called 'oxygenated water' which is supposed to be water, but with more oxygen. But how does this work? If we take our H2O and add a second oxygen molecule. What we are left with is H2O2.  H2O2 is actually none other than hydrogen peroxide! Now that doesn't seem very appetizing now does it. Unless you dilute it quite a bit, consuming hydrogen peroxide can cause vommiting and mild burning of your throat and stomach. But 'oxygenated water' isn't hydrogen peroxide, of course. They simply inject oxygen into the water like a child blowing bubbles in their drink with a straw. Any oxygen added is not chemically bonded, and simply bubbles to the surface and escapes into the air. But if there is any extra oxygen in a bottle of water, that means more air and less water. Considering the increased cost of oxygenated water, you are actually paying more for less. Some of their claims are actually true, but it's not because it's oxygenated water, but because it is water (which is something important). 


Ionized/Alkaline/Negatively Charged Water

Another 'miracle' water is alkaline water.  This water undergoes electrolysis to separate the source water into acidic and alkaline streams. The claims of this non-acidic water are that it promotes stomach health, healthier bones, lower blood pressure, and enhance antioxidant levels. That sounds pretty good, but is this true? First we must realize that any water fit to drink is actually too unconductive to to undergo meaningful electrolysis. So even if you can ionize the water, it won't be much different from the base water, and any water that can create very very alkaline water isn't any water that I'd want to drink. If it's pure water, you can't improve on it anyway. But even if you do happen to ionize your water so that it is mildly alkaline, remember where it is going to go. It will wind up in your highly acidic stomach, where any alkaline levels will be quickly nullified. What more, the ionizing machines are quite expensive. So why spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on an unnecessary machine, when you could just drink the water yo have and get all the heath benefits of water on the cheap. Oh, and they also claim that it 'sticks to cells like a magnet, and hydrates amazingly well'. Well it's water! Of course it's going to hydrate for crying out loud!

Kinesio Tape

This bright colored tape was all the rage at the recent London Olympics. Athletes of all types were wearing this tape in all manner of pattern and color. The manufacturer claims that the tape lifts the skin to help reduce pain and improve blood flow and enhance muscle performance. It can also be used to restrict motion to an injured area. While it can be used to keep one from further injuring a joint by restricting motion, the claims of blood flow and improved performance are in question. At this stage, scientific testing has found no evidence that supports the blood flow and performance claims, so it appears to be more of a fashion accessory than anything else. 

Magnetic Bracelet/Magnetic Therapy

This product is exactly what it says it is... a bracelet with magnets in it. But why put magnets in a bracelet. The claim goes like this. Our blood has iron in it, so you wear the bracelet on your wrist where it will excite to iron in the blood stream. This will attract the iron causing improved blood flow, more oxygen in the blood, better nutrition and improved healing. Some even claim that they cure all diseases! But as we've asked with the others, do they work? No, no they don't. Scientific testing hasn't found any evidence they they work either. But it should also be noted that the magnets are nowhere near powerful enough to reach or effect the iron in the blood. The only things these magnets are attracting, are the gullible.

Power Balance Wristbands

These are nothing more than a silicone wristband with a hologram sticker on them. It doesn't look like anything special at first glance, but let's hear what their manufacturer has to say about them. They claim(ed) that the wristbands use 'holographic technology' to affect and balance the 'energy field' of the wearers body in order to enhance athletic performance. If that sounds like a lot of meaningless BS, that's because it is. We could go on and on about the  meaningless terms 'holographic technology' and 'energy field', but lets focus on the basics instead, like the fact that their claims were so widely discredited that they actually came out and admitted that their product doesn't actually do anything. That's not surprising since the holograms on my old visa or master card didn't make me into a sports all star. Nor did the stacks of hologram stickers I had as a kid promote me to Olympic ability. But back to 'holographic technology'... This is just an attempt to make a printing process sound fancier than it really is. Holograms are for sports cards, parking permits, credit cards and other specialty printing needs, NOT medical uses. As for the body's 'energy field'... If they are talking in the aura type sense, then they are just talking about something that does not exist again. So holograms can't effect anything. If they could, there's no energy field to effect. And even if there was a field, how would an external field changes ever translate to internal sporting performance? None of those questions matter though, because they don't do anything other than use high paid endorsements in order to make even more on the unsuspecting.

So if all of these products are scams, exaggerations and too good to be true, what about the people that swear by them? the answer to this is pretty simple... the placebo effect. The brain is an amazing and powerful thing. If you take or use them whilst expecting results, you can often trick yourself into thinking that it really is working. Some are just fads and gimmicks that look cool and trendy. Others use buzz words to confuse and make simple things sound more complicated than they are. The waters have health benefits because they are water, and not because they are some sort of mythical 'better water'. But it really is saddening that so many shell out much of their hard earned money for false promises and basic products being sold for multiple more under some fancy label. Many of there products should be known fakes by common sense alone. Unfortunately that is not the came, and the masses still hang on every word of each 'miracle product' that rolls around. It truly is saddening that so many fall for this tripe.


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