Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Sceptic's View of the Scientific Research on Copper Bracelets

Sceptic's View of the Scientific Research on Copper Bracelets.

When I first discovered the electrical effect of copper bracelets I thought it would be a good idea to stimulate some discussion on the subject. I looked for science based forums where there was already a question related to how copper bracelets work. I did not claim any medical benefits I just pointed out that the majority of posts that claimed science has proved that copper bracelets have no method of effecting the body are probably wrong as anyone with a multi meter can prove there is an effect.

 I naively thought readers would try this for themselves.
 I did not expect what would happen next, every post I made was removed before any discussion could take place on the grounds that I was speculating.
To be honest I was quite shocked that the moderators did not understand copper being a conductor of electricity was a scientific fact and the laws of physics on their own without a multi meter would predict copper touching the skin of a body will produce electricity.
It appeared to be a knee jerk reaction from moderators who themselves appeared to have invested a lot of ego in their own posts on the subject and did not want any dissenters.
This was an excellent learning process for me, an ordinary guy who has always believed science is the search for the truth. Maybe ego trumped truth? I decided it was time to take a close look at the research on copper bracelets.

Well it is easy to find the news quotes describing the research but it is not quite so easy to read the actual research without having to pay to join a site or pay to download the pdf. Apologies but I have no spare money to do that but I did find what is probably the latest piece of research done at York University and the paper-

'Copper Bracelets and Magnetic Wrist Straps for Rheumatoid Arthritis – Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory Effects: A Randomised Double-Blind Placebo Controlled Crossover Trial'

 is free on-line here -


There are hundreds if not thousands of websites quoting this research, from Fox news to the BBC and nearly every site dealing with arthritis either quotes this research or the research the same team did on Osteoarthritis.

Well, who am I to go against such a flood of a largely respected system?

I do not benefit in any way by copper bracelets working, or not working and to be honest there is a part of me that does not feel right perceived to be on the side of those who make money with their wild claims about copper bracelets but I think we deserve the truth and I am not sure we are getting it.

So I took a sceptic's look at this research.

The first thing I noticed is that the copper bracelets were not even the real subject of the research!

"Plain copper bracelets were used with the intention of serving as an additional placebo. In the case of osteoarthritis, at least, research evidence indicates that such devices may be considered as inert [11]–[12]."

They say copper bracelets 'may be considered as inert' what do they mean?
 Well 'inert' means
"1. Unable to move or act.
2. Sluggish in action or motion; lethargic. See Synonyms at inactive.
3. Chemistry Not readily reactive with other elements; forming few or no chemical compounds.
4. Having no pharmacologic or therapeutic action."


 So what they are saying is that the research is designed around the available evidence that points towards similar devices, of all the considerations one could think of, and I can think of a lot, is one that copper bracelets create no chemistry or therapeutic effect in osteoarthritis.
In plain English, Despite the fact that it clearly states copper bracelets were to be one of the subjects of the research it appears the research method starts with the belief that copper bracelets do not work and is designed around that belief.

Of course copper bracelets are not inert in the 'unable to act' or 'not readily reactive with other elements' meanings of inert but let us not dwell in semantics, just get out your multi meter!!

The second point I noticed was the patients who were excluded from the research.

"Of the 106 people who initially volunteered to take part, 24 were excluded because they did not meet eligibility criteria, most commonly because of low levels of pain."

For me this alone completely invalidates the conclusions the researchers came to, for two reasons.
Of course I cannot get the funding to scientifically research what I am about to say but it is common sense.
If one did this research exactly the same but to find out if one tablet of aspirin a day had any any analgesic or anti-inflammatory effect and those with a low level of pain were excluded, the research would be completely discredited. And it is doubtful that one tablet of aspirin a day would be strong enough to have any effect on high levels of pain. So our research would produce the same results as this research on bracelets and we could conclude there was no evidence aspirin had any effect. Yet we know aspirin can be used as a pain killer and we know it would work better with low levels of pain!

The second reason is copper bracelets are in the low risk 'home remedy' arena like band aid, bandaging a sprained ankle, dettol, cuts and scratches and burns, cough medicine, aches and pains, relaxing in a hot bath with bath salts (which probably has something to do with electricity aswell!) headaches, and dare I say, the taking of one aspirin.
  I make no claims that copper bracelets can cure any arthritis and without knowing the surface area of the copper bracelets I can make no claims about the amount of electricity they may have produced but by excluding those who may have noticed a difference and only testing those whose arthritic pain was at a level that a small difference could go unnoticed I can only conclude this research on the effects of copper bracelets was designed to have a certain result which was to prove a biased belief.

The Daily Telegraph headlined an article
 'Copper bracelets useless for arthritis sufferers, study finds'
and quoted Dr Richmond who led this research

 "Firstly, devices such as these provide a placebo effect for users who believe in them;" One presumes he includes himself as in the report's own words
 "Plain copper bracelets were used with the intention of serving as an additional placebo".

This is not proper research this is just as bad as making wild claims for the therapeutic effects of copper bracelets yet this piece of research has become the definitive answer to the question about copper bracelets.

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