Negative ion bracelet — Good for health?

Originally Published: June 6, 2014
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Hi Alice,

I heard about the Ion Power Balance Bracelets and that is good for the health. Is that true and how it is good? What do they exactly do and should I buy one?

Hope you will answer my question.

Thanks Khalil

Dear Khalil,

Ion power bracelets have been seen on the wrists of both pro athletes and consumers. Those who wear them have reported that putting one on makes them feel more powerful, improves coordination, and even uplifts their mood! Manufacturers claim that the bracelets work by releasing negative ions into the atmosphere around the wearer. Though exposure to negative ions themselves may have some benefit, it appears that bracelets like the one you describe may not live up to the hype.

But what is a negative ion and what good does it do? Here’s a quick brush up on some general chemistry: atoms are made up of a nucleus containing protons and neutrons as well as electrons (which orbit around the nucleus). Protons have a positive charge while electrons have a negative charge (neutrons have no charge). Atoms that have the same number of protons and electrons are said to be neutral: that is, they have no net positive or negative charge. A neutral atom that has gained or lost an electron is an ion. If an atom has lost an electron it is a positive ion, whereas an atom that has gained an electron is a negative ion.

Negative ions exist in nature. You may be surprised to learn that they are associated with places that people tend to feel are rejuvenating: waterfalls, beaches with strong waves, or the air after a heavy or hard rain. As the free-floating negative ions are inhaled and reach the bloodstream, they are believed to boost serotonin levels. Increased serotonin levels could help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, while boosting mood and energy. This may be why the allure for the ion power bracelet is so compelling: who wouldn’t want to feel as refreshed as they do waking up on the side of a clear mountain after a rain storm or serene as watching a sunset on the beach with the surf crashing on the shore? Additionally, negative ion therapies (where negative ions are emitted from a machine into the air) have shown promise as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) due to its antidepressant qualities.

However, research on the bracelets reveals that the ion power bracelet may not be able to deliver the actual negative ions to the bloodstream of their wearers. In more than one study, several types of negative ion bracelets have shown to have no effect on various performance qualities, such as strength, flexibility, endurance, or balance. In interviews with Columbia University’s News Service, the medical director at American Council on Science and Health and the vice president of education at the American Academy of Family Physicians stated that they did not believe that the bracelets have an ability to improve strength, coordination, or peace of mind as many manufacturers claim. Additionally, some bracelet companies have even come under fire from the Federal Trade Commission for claiming that their bracelets were effective at reducing pain – something that has not been shown in research.

Although there is no proven correlation between what the manufacturers and some wearers’ claim with actual science, the bracelets aren’t harmful, so you may decide to try one for yourself! Even a placebo effect is still an effect. And keep in mind that if you don’t experience any difference in your physical or psychological health, you can always rely on the tried and true benefits of getting out into nature: by going for a hike, finding a good beach, or even just talking a stroll after a heavy rain.

Here’s to hoping you find a little healthful negativity!

Alice