Nicole Branagh, left, with her Power Balance bracelet, with partner Misty May-Treanor after a match. Credit: Keadrick D. Washington / PR Photos

Nicole Branagh, left, with her Power Balance bracelet, with partner Misty May-Treanor after a match. Credit: Keadrick D. Washington / PR Photos

Power Balance bracelets promise to improve balance, strength and flexibility and feature some lofty endorsers: Shaquille O’Neal, Drew Brees and Nicole Branagh, an Olympian from the University of Minnesota. Yet the maker of the $30 bracelets admitted this week that there’s no scientific evidence that the things actually work.

 

The producers of Power Balance bracelets have sold them by the millions around the globe. They adorn the celebrity wrists of Robert de Niro and Kate Middleton, among others. The hologram-embedded rubbery bracelets “work with your body’s natural energy field” in ways similar to “concepts behind many Eastern philosophies,” the Power Balance website explains.

These claims got the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which compelled Power Balance to issue a letter that was published in various media outlets Down Under.

“We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims,” the company wrote. “Therefore we engaged in misleading conduct.”

 The letter goes on to say that “if you feel you have been misled by our promotions, we wish to unreservedly apologise and offer a full refund.”

Stateside, Power Balance is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles. The suit wants California-based Power Balance to pay up $5 million.

In a follow-up statement posted Tuesday on the company’s Facebook wall, Power Balance said it is standing by their bracelets and will continue to sell them, saying that their claims merely fell short of Australia’s regulatory standards.

“A preliminary study recently conducted on the product’s performance variables was commissioned,” the statement noted, “and the findings have determined that the product does in fact provide a 'statistically significant’ result on the wearer’s performance.”

Among Power Balance’s most wholehearted endorsers is Branagh, the former star volleyball player at the University of Minnesota who went on to compete on sand in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

“When I put the band on, I just feel more centered -- when I hit the sand or gym, I always have it on,” Branagh is quoted as saying on the Power Balance website. “Since I was introduced to it in 2009, I have not played without it.”

The website also includes a videotaped endorsement and demonstration by Branagh, the Big Ten’s Player of the Year in 2000. A telephone message was left Thursday with Branagh to comment about the company’s about-face.

Despite news of the admission reaching the Northern Hemisphere, the bracelets continue to be sold at General Sports in the 50th and France shopping district bordering Minneapolis and Edina.

“People are still buying them,” said Nick Hoiseth, General’s retail manager, who started wearing one after shoulder surgery. “A lot if it was in the head to motivate me. Whatever gets you off the couch.”

Hoiseth said sales were brisk leading up to Christmas -- at least 20 a week -- and the store has no plans to pull them.

“We’re rolling with them, as long as they are moving,” he said.

 

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