Early this year I came across a BioMag website which made the following claim:
“BioMag’s scientifically engineered magnet system stimulates nerve endings which increases your body’s blood flow and helps produce a chemical called melatonin.”
“Melatonin plays a key role in providing you with a deeper, more restorative sleep and alleviating insomnia related problems.”
However, when I checked the scientific journals I could find no evidence to support this claim. So I laid a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). My complaint was upheld and the full report was released on the ASA website today.
It details what has been an interesting experience for me.
BioMag first claimed that the webpage I was complaining against was “non-searchable” and “unlinked” within the site, so they were surprised to see a complaint against it. This surprised me too, as I had found the webpage by a google search, and had taken a screenshot of it at the time.
Nevertheless, by the time my complaint was being dealt with by the Complaints Board, BioMag had updated their website, and the page no longer existed. So I was asked if I wanted to continue with my complaint.
Pleased that the inaccurate claim about melatonin might have been removed, I checked the new BioMag website. However, I still found the following statement on a new page
“Your BioMag will not only ease your pain, but an increased production of melatonin will help you get a deeper, restorative sleep.”
So I decided to pursue the complaint based on the fact they were still claiming their magnets increased melatonin production, something I could not find any support for in the scientific literature.
BioMag then provided the Complaints Board with a series of links to journals that they believed supported their claims.
The Complaints Board disagreed, and Upheld my complaint.
It is interesting to look at the references they provided. A few look at research in which electrically generated (not static) magnetic fields were investigated to see if they actually LOWERED melatonin levels in animals and humans. The results of these papers show no discernible effect of the various electromagnetic fields on humans. Certainly, I could find no mention of INCREASED levels of melatonin, as suggested in the BioMag claims.
They also included a few papers which discussed the benefit of melatonin in treating sleep related disorders, but which contained no evidence related to magnetic fields.
Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have understood the literature as, according to the ASA report BioMag still believe that “it is widely noted that Magnetic Fields effect the production of melatonin.”
They then go on to say
“While I can concede that the phrase “helps produce” doesn’t specify whether Magnetic Therapy increases or decreases melatonin production, it is true to say that it can have a positive effect on regulation”
This I find a little strange. Surely if you claim to “help produce” something it means you are increasing it?
Another reference provided by BioMag specifically describes how magnetic fields in these experiments were generated using high voltage, high current discharge systems to produce PULSING magnetic fields.
Such fields are very different from the static magnetic fields used by BioMag.
Of course BioMag could look at this paucity of good research as an opportunity. Being a highly profitable company they could easily fund research to test the effectiveness of their products. Surely, there are scientists in New Zealand who would happily test BioMag products using double bind, randomised, placebo controlled experiment?
Imagine the commercial benefits, IF they could back their claims with solid, New Zealand based research.
After all, BioMag have already shown they are a responsive company – they have quickly removed all claims about melatonin from their website.