Wednesday, January 05, 2011

More Evidence The Public Can't Tell The Difference Between Scientific and Anecdotal Evidence

If you've wanted any considerable length of TV (especially in the US), you might have encountered the commercial by a company called Power Balance. The commercial claims that wearing the bracelet made by the company (which somehow has a "frequency" that matches your body), you could improve your health, your balance, your well-being, etc. It showed several sport and entertainment celebrities wearing such bracelet and several "ordinary" people who swore by them.

Well of course, none of these claims have any scientific backing. In fact, the company itself admitted that it has no scientific evidence to support its claim!

It may be for him, but Australian authorities say the California-based company behind the wildly popular wristbands and pendants has no business claiming that they improve balance, strength and flexibility.

And they even got Power Balance to admit it.

The company wrote: "We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims." It also agreed to give refunds to customers who believe they were cheated.

But yet, they get people who would swear by them:

The company unleashed a torrent of its own tweets, playing off the word "admit."

In one, it said: "Power Balance Admits products have been worn during the last world series, nba finals and super bowl champions!"

Fans insist the bands have helped their game.

"Our trainers swear by it," Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley wrote in a message posted on his Twitter page.

The company began selling bracelets in 2007 embedded with holograms that were purportedly designed to interact with the body's natural energy flow.

Since then, the colorful wristbands, which sell for $29.95, have become ubiquitous, donned by Los Angeles Lakers' Lamar Odom and English celebrity soccer star David Beckham.

They have also been worn by celebrities, including actors Robert De Niro and Gerard Butler.

Well, first of all, let's get this out of the way. Just because some celebrity wears it, it is completely irrelevant on evidence that it works. In fact, it has totally nothing to do with it. Having celebrities wearing it isn't evidence - it is a PROMOTION! So why should we be impressed by it? We shouldn't, but unfortunately, many are, and that's why these celebrities are used, or even paid, to wear such things.

Secondly, what if I give them some fake ones? Will it still work the same way they THINK it should work?

A Wisconsin professor ran similar tests comparing the performance of 42 athletes wearing Power Balance wristbands and silicon versions from Wal-Mart and said he found no difference.

Athletes were more likely to perform better wearing the second bracelet they put on, largely because they knew what to expect from the trial, said John Porcari, professor of exercise and sport science at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

"I think it is a scam," he said. "It has absolutely nothing to do with the bracelets. It is all in people's heads."

This, of course, is the infamous placebo effect! It is why when there is a proper clinical trial study, one always do a control group with placebo to see if the effect of the real thing is significantly above the placebo group! If not, one cannot tell if the positive effect is actually due to the real thing itself, or the placebo. This is the main test in which homeopathy drugs have trouble overcoming.

It takes a lot of testing for something to be considered to be valid. Anecdotal evidence such as this does NOT indicate that the product's claim is valid. The public needs to learn such difference and not be taken in by the same snake-oil scam. But then again, how much can you do to save the public from themselves?


1 comment:

Bob said...

if they actually worked wouldn't they be banned from sporting events?