Saturday, 5 January 2008

Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet? More like Ionized Bullshit

I've been wanting to write about the Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet for a while now, but I never got around to doing it. Now, thanks to this post over at Sandwalk, I have decided to put in my two cents about it.

I'm sure everyone has seen the informercials on TV. Especially if youre up late at night, you're likely to catch the ads hocking Q-Ray bracelets. (For those of who who dont know, however, Q-Ray Ionized Bracelets are metal bracelets (which quite resemble a short piece of metal cable with two metal knobs at the end) which is supposedly "based on the ancient Eastern pratices" of "Chi", and, through their patented "ionization process", helps to "balance your negative ions", contributing to your "well being" and optomizing your "bio-energy". What a mouthful. Care for a translation? All of that means shit-all. The Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet is a sham.

First, let us consider the name of this new-age Snake Oil: "Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet". The name obviously implies that the bracelet itself is ionized. Anyone with even basic introductory chemistry knows what ions are: they're simply atoms or molecules carrying an electrical charge, whether negative (an excess of electrons) or positive (lacking electrons). In other words, if the Q-Ray really is ionized, then it should be electrically charged. A recent segment of CBC's Marketplace ("Buying Belief") showed that this is not the case (more on the Marketplace segment below). Experiments carried out at the University of Toronto showed that the Q-Ray bracelet carries no electrical charge whatsoever. Also, were the bracelet made of inoized metal, it probably would not be a good idea to wear it. Ions are readily reactive, meaning that the metal in the bracelet would quicky and easily react chemically with the world around it; water, air, possibly even your skin. I highly doubt that having metal chemically burning into your flesh is good for your "well being". The FAQ on the offical Q-Ray Website tells us that its safe to wear the bracelet while bathing - something that should be avoided were the bracelet truely ionized. The Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet is completel inert, both electrically and chemically.

What about their claims of "balancing negative ions"? Again, this is nonsense. Negative ions dont need "balancing" and even if they did, how would they be balanced? What would they be balanced against or with? This claim is absolutely meaningless. Had they claimed that the Q-Ray "balanced quasi-fluctuating enzymes", it would have ammounted to the same thing. It's a load of semi-technical terms that mean nothing.

Regardless of whether or not your negative ions are out of whack, couldnt your bio-energy still need optimizing? Not when you consider what this means. A quick google search for "bio-energy" turns up a long list of sites about biofuels like biodiesel. I somehow doubt that this is what the Q-Ray marketers are talking about (though wouldnt it be great to have a little metal bracelet that gave your car a better fuel mileage?). What, then, is "bio-energy"? Seemingly, it would be some sort of energy within your body. The body does have a reserve of energy; the "currency" of that energy is ATP. Could this be the bio-energy the Q-Ray optimizes? Unlikely. ATP, for the most part, is generated through metabolic pathways like the Kreb's Cycle, or aerobic respiration (through the linking of ATP Synthase to the electron transport chain). Whatever the method, ATP is generated through highly controlled biochemical pathways. Optimization of ATP generation would mean making the necessary enzymes work better. In other words, the Q-Ray would have to be a catalyst for the necessary reactions. How could an inert piece of metal wrapped around your wrist catalyze intracellular reactions? Simple: it cannot. Just as "balancing your negative ions", "optimizing your bioenergy" is meaningless, just pseudo-technical terms thought up by Q-Ray's marketing department.

The Q-Ray also claims to be good for your "well being". It is difficult to tell whether this is true because "well being" is such an ambigious and loosely defined word that it is hard to know what the claim means. The Marketplace investigation into the Q-Ray sham sheds some light on this, however. It would seem that a US court ruled that Q-Ray was to pay back a sum of $87 Million to customers for making fradulent claims about the bracelets offering pain relief. The company then removed all references to pain relief in their infomercials and instead talk about improving "well-being" (though, as Marketplace showed, references to the false pain relief effects of the bracelets are still abound). The court case also brought some other interesting facts to the table. The president of the Q-Ray company, while on trial, admitted that all the claims about the Q-Ray were completely made up. He even made up the "ionization" part, saying that he decided to claim the bracelet was "ionized" and "balanced negative ions" because it was easy to remember. Neverless, these false claims still persist and people still fall for them.

All false claims and lawsuits aside, does the Q-Ray actually do anything? Few actual studies of the Q-Ray have actually been done, though a test carried out by the Mayo Clinic in 2002 showed that the bracelts worked no better than an identical placebo. Defendants of the Q-Ray claim that this justifies the use of their product - if you think it will work, then it will. This hardly justifies lying to consumers, especially when they are charging upwards of $200 for each bracelet. If a placebo works just as well, then charging an arm an a leg for a piece of metal that doesnt actually do anything is highway robbery; an identical bracelt made of materials bought at Home Depot costing $5 would have the same effect. And arent patients better off seeking treatment for their ailments that actually DOES something, especially if they are willing to be paying lots of money for it?

Though some justice may have finally been served. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, just two days ago, passed a ruling on the company, detemining that their product is a fraud and demanding that they pay the FTC $16million which will be distributed to customers who have been swindled (though, if you ask me, if you were silly enough to fall for the Q-Ray, you dont deserve your money back). Among the arguments made by the defense, they claimed that subjecting their product to rigourous scientific testing was "unreasonable" (this just goes to show you the mentality of the people who hock this kind of new-age nonsense).

Regardless of the court rulings, the false claims, and the absolute nonsense spouted by Q-Ray and its marketers, the bracelets will undoubtedly continue to sell. It kinda makes me sad how people will buy into this sort of thing without critcally thinking about it even for a second.