An increasing number of alternative gadgets are being promoted with promises of health benefits for those who buy them. These gadgets have little in common except that the theories behind them conflict with mainstream science. For some entrepreneurs, alternative medicine is a highly profitable business, and there seems to be no limit to their inventiveness. They develop gadgets and claim that, if we buy and use them, our health will improve, certain illnesses will be cured or diseases will be prevented. The ideal medium for promoting these gadgets is, of course, the internet – there is no control over what claims can be made.
Examples of alternative gadgets are copper bracelets, devices that are said to shield us from electromagnetic radiation, jewellery with healing crystals, footbaths that supposedly extract toxins from our body, etc. In many cases, the only evidence provided by the manufacturer is statements by satisfied customers and ‘experts’, providing a thin veneer of credibility. Currently there are, for instance, dozens of websites where Professor Kim Jobst promotes the ‘Q link’ as a ‘safe and effective tool that helps guard the cells of the body against electromagnetic field effects’. He also claims, ‘Emerging evidence from early clinical cellular and molecular studies of the effects of Q link on cardiovascular, immune and central nervous systems are startling,’ but this is simply not true.
What is the Evidence?
The medicinal claims for these gadgets are often couched in apparently scientific language. This is to convince the consumer that the product is serious. On closer inspection, those with a scientific background can easily see their pseudo-scientific nature (i.e. the jargon is gobbledygook). The assumed mode of action of alternative gadgets is biologically implausible and no data exist to show that they have any positive health effects at all. Indeed, when devices have been tested, then the conclusion has invariably been disappointing.
The financial loss for patients is obvious, but there is also a health risk, as some people might employ these gadgets as alternatives to effective treatments.
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This extract is taken from “Trick or Treatment?” (Transworld), a book that contains a series of 1-page summaries looking at the evidence for and against a range of alternative therapies. The authors of the book are Simon Singh (founder of the Good Thinking Society) and Edzard Ernst (the world’s first professor of complementary medicine).