1. First, the level of magnetism put out by
magnetic innersoles and bandages is very modest--most often less than the same type
of force on your refrigerator magnets at home. (Test this
yourself by holding a common paperclip to a "therapeutic" magnet,
then apply a refrigerator magnet to the paperclip and see which magnet the
paperclip clings to. It will likely cling to the refrigerator magnet,
meaning that the simple refrigerator magnet, weak as it is, is stronger than
the "therapeutic" magnet.)
2. Second, the effect of magnets
diminishes extremely quickly the further away the magnet lies. For an
example of this, notice how much more poorly a refrigerator magnet holds five
or ten pieces of paper to the refrigerator than it will hold one piece of
paper. Imagine, then, how much less an effect a magnet innersole would
have in your shoe when your foot is covered in a sock and has a very thick
layer of skin, (say a quarter inch or so), covering it. In fact,
few of these "therapeutic" magnets will attract anything through the
thickness of a sock.
3. Third, there is no known mechanism for any
therapeutic effect of magnets. In fact, depending on the salesman
talking, there are dozens of supposed
reasons why magnets are claimed to work. No mechanism, however,
has actually been proven.
In fact, the only materials in our body that
could possibly be sensitive to magnets as weak as those offered in magnet
therapy are metals like the iron in your blood. But the iron in your
blood is chemically bound to the hemoglobin in your blood cells, which makes
it inert, and no reactive. In fact, it's a good thing it is inert,
because if it weren't, the iron would be toxic to us.
How do we know we're insenstive to the
effects of magnets?
We know this because if it weren't inert, we
couldn't begin to use magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI), a diagnostic imaging tool used in medicine
to see inside the body. MRI uses magnets thousands and thousands and
thousands of times stronger than the magnets used in "magnet
therapy", and it still doesn't create any effect on the metals in your
body--either positive or negative.
4. Fourth, even if the weak magnets
used in "magnet therapy" could produce an
effect on the body, it would be highly dubious about whether
that effect is actually therapeutic. For example, if you had some sort
of affliction, would it make sense to have the metals in your body drawn to
your feet (if you were using a magnetic innersole)? Or your back (if you
were sold a magnetic mattress)? How would this solve any medical
problem? In fact, if the effect were real, how do we know this effect
wouldn't create medical problems?
5. Fifth, we have the notion of the proof
of benefit. Beware when the individuals most
enthusiastic about the effects of magnets are those selling them. Beware
when there are few people touting the effects of magnets who do not have a
financial interest in the claim. Beware when the only "proof"
of an effect is offered by nebulous testimonials, (which, in science, is
little proof, indeed). And beware when there is little or no scientific
evidence to back up that enthusiasm.
In the case with magnets, note that despite
the hundreds of millions of dollars of money earned by the magnet industry,
the industry sponsors few, if any, scientific studies to support their
use. And there are few
independent studies that show any effect of magnets either. In fact, the
one study often quoted by proponents of magnets (the Baylor University study)
is highly dubious. First, the study size was quite small. There
were just 50 individuals tested, and just 29 of whom were actually given a
real magnet. (The other 21 were given fake magnets.) Second, the
alleged benefits were entirely subjective (what the patient felt), with no
objective findings, (no objective therapeutic changes being produced by the
study). Third, while the
study is often touted as double-blinded, that is with neither group being aware of whether
they had a magnet or not, it would be very easy for anyone to test it for
himself, simply by holding something as simple as a paperclip to the test
material. Hence, the study was too small, too subjective, and not truly
double-blinded. This this is likely at least one reason the results of
this one single study hasn't been reproduced in any other test.
6. Sixth, the cost of
"therapeutic magnets" is frequently ridiculous. Despite the fact that
magnets are quite inexpensive to produce, (pennies for a refrigerator magnet), the cost for
magnet therapy is often enormous--ranging from $20 to even hundreds of dollars
for an magnetic innersole.