image: Power Balance
The Australian manufacturer of Power Balance, the wildly popular rubbery bracelets embedded with holograms claimed to somehow adjust the body’s energy or vibrations, has admitted that there is no proof their product works.
A representative of Power Balance Australia issued a statement that read in part, “We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims. Therefore we engaged in misleading conduct.”
Power Balance bracelets achieved global popularity, in part because they were embraced by a parade of celebrities. Dozens of professional athletes, movie stars and musicians use them and have been photographed wearing the bands.
So what were A-listers like Robert DeNiro, Shaq, Kate Middleton, and P. Diddy getting out of them?
Australian researcher Richard Saunders told Discovery News, “The claims are that these bands will improve your strength, your balance, and your flexibility. They also suggest it will improve your well-being, give you clarity of thought, improve your stamina and sports performance, that sort of thing.”
Saunders, co-host of the Skeptic Zone podcast, was asked by an Australian television show to test the bands on a representative from Power Balance. “I tested the head of the Australian branch, and he failed five times out of five tests. So it was pretty conclusive. These were blind and double-blind tests where he had to tell which one out of six volunteers had the band on. He was pretty shocked when they failed to work.”
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel stated that “Suppliers of these types of products must ensure that they are not claiming supposed benefits when there is no supportive scientific evidence. Consumers should be wary of other similar products on the market that make unsubstantiated claims, when they may be no more beneficial than a rubber band.”
How, exactly, were the bands said to work in the first place? Josh Rodarmel, co-creator of the bracelets, tried to explain the “science” behind his product by claiming that everything in nature has a “frequency,” and that the Power Balance bands restore a “natural healing frequency.”
Claims like this, though common in New Age and “alternative” health circles, are laughable to scientists and skeptics like Harriet Hall, a retired medical doctor and former Air Force surgeon.
Hall, who runs a Web site called SkepDoc, devoted to examining dubious medical claims, told Discovery News that Power Balance claims about body vibrations and resonance are pure nonsense. “This whole resonance and vibration business is pseudoscience emanating from the myth of the human energy field—not the kind of energy physicists measure, but some vague and unproven life energy like the acupuncturists' qi (or “chi”). Statements like ‘We are a frequency’ and ‘We are a bunch of cells held together by a frequency’ are completely at odds with scientific knowledge. I e-mailed the company and asked simple questions like, 'How do you measure the frequency of a rock?' They didn't answer.”
So if you ask, "What’s the frequency, Josh?", he's got no answer.
While the Australian manufacturer of Power Balance bands has been forced to admit its products have no scientific support, other Power Balance distributors around the world continue to insist the product is effective (though it’s not clear why scientific evidence for the band’s efficacy would only apply outside of Australia).