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Placebos catering to the desperate and now delivered to your door

2294965204_5d6b5ee39c_zShe was delighted with the ‘results’. She showed me that her blouse was loosely fitting. “A couple of weeks ago this was tight” she insisted. I guessed her BMI was still at least 30 but ‘Tiny deal‘ had sent her the answer to her prayers. An appetite suppressant that you wear on your toes!

They hurt your feet. It’s like walking with corns on your toes but you can eat whatever you like. You just don’t feel hungry. It only cost five bucks and that includes postage.

She recounted a life long struggle with her weight.

It started when I was a little girl. My step mother didn’t like me so I was bashed regularly and given lots of ‘bad’ foods to eat. Later I was teased at school because I was plump. People think I’m lazy because I’m fat. I have been tested for sleep apnea, diabetes and high blood pressure. The doctors have given up, they can’t fix it….I didn’t want that for my little boy. We don’t feed him junk and he isn’t overweight.

Now she was also ‘detoxing’ with insoles that turn black overnight. What do they do I asked?

Dunno, the information leaflets are all in Chinese.

Don’t you worry about any of this I asked? How does it work? What’s it actually doing?

Nope all I know is that I feel really clean in the morning and that’s proof enough for me.

What would you like me to do for you today? I wondered out loud.

Nothing doc…except that I need a certificate for work. The detox requires you to drink lots of lemon juice and it’s giving me diarrhoea so I can’t work.

So here’s some advice from Health Mango on the use of magnets to treat obesity:

Metabolism of the body is directly related to the thyroid glands. If this gland which is located at the base of the throat is stimulated with the North Pole, the basal metabolic rate goes up and the food is burnt in larger quantity and that too faster.For this purpose a fat person should keep the North pole of a medium, powered (1500 to 200 Gauss) magnet at the base of the throat for about 15 minutes. This action should be repeated 2 or 3 times in a day right after meals. Simultaneously one should drink the water treated with the North Pole of the magnet 3 or 4 times a day. Each time the intake of water should be about half a cup. Try this with some doctor’s advice and it will surely be beneficial.

What would ‘some doctor’s advice’ add? The notions described are entirely alien. The doctor’s advice would be….! this is nonsense. To which my patient’s retort might be:

This blouse is definitely looser, it’s only costing me $5 so what harm?

I did a literature search and found a review published in Acupuncture in Medicine a sister to the BMJ. The paper was entitled: Magnets applied to acupuncture points as therapy. The authors concluded:

Based on this literature review we believe further investigation of acu-magnet therapy is warranted particularly for the management of diabetes and insomnia. The overall poor quality of the controlled trials precludes any evidence based treatment recommendations at this time (2008).

None of this had prevented some enterprising person from selling magnets making extraordinary claims directly to the public. But wait, there is science involved. The placebo response in studies with binge eating disorders is estimated to be a whopping 32.6%. Furthermore the literature says:

Short-term intervention with a placebo, however, appears of little value with respect to the long-term management of these binge eating problems. Even among individuals with fewer complications related to obesity and comorbid psychopathology, Binge Eating Disorder may be a refractory condition.

So I guess we might be forgiven for thinking, as she hobbles over to the door clutching her certificate

See you next time

Picture by Indiamos

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