No Proven Benefits From 'Healing' Magnets

Experiments are flawed and magnet use may impede treatment of medical conditions

MONDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- The healing powers of magnets, sold in a range of devices from bracelets to insoles, have not been scientifically proven, according to an editorial in the Jan. 7 issue of the British Medical Journal.

Leonard Finegold, Ph.D., of Drexel University in Philadelphia, and Bruce L. Flamm, M.D., of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Riverside, Calif., discuss the experiments conducted to support the therapeutic claims of magnetic devices, of which annual sales in the United States are estimated at $300 million.

The "controlled" experiments conducted to test the devices are flawed because of the difficulty of blinding subjects to the presence of a magnet versus a sham device, as magnets stick to metal objects or make sleeping pads, shoe insoles and other objects firmer or stiffer than usual. The authors also note that self-treatment using magnets incurs unnecessary cost and may delay proper treatment of medical conditions. The underlying scientific theory is also dubious, they say.

"Even theoretically, magnet therapy seems unrealistic. If human tissue were affected by magnets, one would expect the massive fields generated by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to have profound effects. Yet the much higher magnetic fields of MRI show neither ill nor healing effects," the authors write.

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