Perhaps you've seen the infomercials or gotten an email touting the magical powers of the iRenew Energy Balance Bracelet -- just strap it on your wrist and you're stronger, have better balance and are even healthier.
Can it be true? Do placebos really cure disease?
Alternative medicine products that claim to harness mystic powers to re-balance your mind and body have been on the market for years, and their newest iteration is a piece of jewelry whose makers promise "instant results."
At a price tag of $19.99 (plus $7.99 shipping), which if you order "today" entitles you to a free second bracelet (plus another $7.99 shipping), the iRenew site claims its product can block stress caused by traffic jams, tabloid television, even irate bosses. It also boasts a capacity to neutralize excessive exposure to man-made electromagnetic fields, which it says may cause brain tumors, autism, and Alzheimer's disease.
"Although it seems like magic, it is actually science!" the company claims. However, besides "testimonials," the company offers no scientific evidence to back up any of the claims, nor does it share any statistics or clinical test results to inspire confidence that the bracelet really works. There are a series of unintentionally funny videos showing people once weak and without balance suddenly stronger and able to balance.
Instead of citing real science, the company relies on the claim that the iRenew bracelet's power is "beyond magnetic technologies and ionic jewelery."
The site is also peppered with references to the word "biofield," which iRenew points out is a newly-adopted term by the National Institutes of Health. The NIH established the term in 1994 to designate the mix of different energies that emanate from each person's body.
The claims are as transparent as a ghost, one expert told Consumer Ally.
"Just substitute the word 'ghosts' for anything to do with energy force. Ghosts can cause all sorts of things, so what they're talking about is simply an imaginary problem," said Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who operates the website Quackwatch.com.
Barrett noted that while there are indeed electrical forces other than the environment, these forces cannot be scientifically measured. "iRenew claims to have something that can fix them, but I have no reason to believe this device can protect you. And how can a miniscule device you wear on your wrist protect your whole body, anyway?"
A similar device called the Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet became the target of a probe by the Federal Trade Commission in 2003. The FTC charged the Illinois-based marketer with making false medical claims to sell its product, which the company claimed had been ionized through a "secret" process to make it an effective treatment for various types of pain. A court later ruled that Q-Ray refund nearly $87 million to customers.
"Our country's education system doesn't prepare the average citizen to think critically about lots of claims. Some people engage in wishful thinking, and others think if it's sold it must be true," said Barrett. "There are all sorts of reasons people get fooled."
The company did not return a call seeking comment.
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