Skepticism

A Good Old-Fashioned Leg Pulling

By Tkingdoll (AKA Teek)
 

Ever wondered how robots keep their wonderful slim figures? No, it’s not their strict diet of oil and fresh organic batteries (no battery batteries here). It’s not regular diode irrigation or occasional sessions under the engineer’s scalpel, it’s…galvanization.
 

Yes, that’s right, the wonderful metal coating process we all know and love can also keep you trim and looking sexy! Oh, alright, not that kind of galvanization, it’s the other kind, meaning “to subject to the action of an electric current especially for the purpose of stimulating physiologically,” and apparently it can take inches off your fat bits! According to the people behind a treatment called Ionithermie, anyway.
 

Only, they don’t call it galvanization, they call it ‘galvanic stimulation’, presumably to avoid the metal-coating confusion I exploited earlier, and possibly also because it’s more science-sounding. But is the sciencey-sounding science sound science? If you followed that, you can follow this next part, from the Ionithermie website:
 

“Galvanic stimulation has been used in beauty treatments for decades. It uses negative and positive ions to propel active, specialized preparations into the deeper layers of the skin far deeper than normal application, massage or even heat can effect.
GALVANIC / IONIZATION
Direct or permanent current which flows from negative to positive.
·         Penetrates Active Ingredients
·         Stimulates Lymphatic circulation
·         Creates erythema

To maximize the penetration of the products Ionithermie not only utilizes through body galvanism but also iontophoresis. This is achieved by the use of 2 ampoules of ionized saline solution one positively charged the other negatively charged. When used in conjunction with the positive and negative electrodes the treatment creates a repelling action to maximize penetration of product not only from the top down but also from the bottom up.”

 

Wait! It maximises penetration from the bottom up? I gotta get me some of this! Oh, sorry, I thought they were talking about something else.
 

So, if I’ve got this straight, here’s what happens. They put some goo on your fat and zap it with an electric current. Is that right? That can’t be right. Cause that would be STUPID. Let’s look at the picture evidence. Yep, that’s what they do. Goo, rub, zap. Like sex in a lightning storm.
 

But does it work? Well, they seem to think so, just look at this reassuring bit of rhetoric:
 

“Results are proven and immediate: dewy, toned, smooth skin with cellulite noticeable improved and overall body inch loss you can measure with a tape – from 1″ to 8″.”
 

There you go then. But wait! What’s this? Read a little further and we find…
 

“The improvement lasts for days”
 

What? It’s not permanent? But I just spent $225 on this! Ah, but it’s OK, they’ve thought of that:
 

“…longer if you back it up with a special home care regimen of the Ionithermie Les Complexes Biotechniques® Full line of Consumer Retail home care and treatment “Maintenance Kits””
 

That’s fine then. I’ll keep my home maintenance kit in the fridge next to my pies and lard, which I can eat in abundance now I have a foolproof guaranteed way to swipe 8 inches off any new flab.
 

To end this little tirade, I would like to give credit to Luigi Galvani, anatomist, and brother of the plumber Mario.
 

One day, Galvani was dissecting a frog when the leg of the dead animal began to twitch. He realised it was likely to be the result of electrical action (a conclusion that gave Count Volta the starting point that eventually led to his invention of the battery). Now, there’s the crucial difference between what Galvani proposed and what the Ionithermie folks are peddling in his name: one was moving the leg by electricity, and the other is clearly pulling it.
 

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12 Comments

  1. Cute… Note that there actually is a technique used to help build muscle by electrical stimulation. You still need to actually work out after you get zapped (drat), but it does improve the muscular response to exercise. That one got written up in SciAm several years ago, but instead of being hyped from the rooftops, it quietly became part of the toolkit for sports trainers and the like.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the proper sort of electrical stimulation did help some substances penetrate the skin, but of course, it wouldn't give said substances any magical powers. And it would have issues similar to DMSO, where people rapidly learned that you need to be pretty careful exactly *what* you're diffusing into your bloodstream….

  2. Thanks! I should give credit to Mr Jeff Wagg for telling me about Ionithermie in the first place. I would have liked to have talked through all 5 steps of the treatment as they are all pretty funny (at one point they describe it as little pac-men eating your toxins :D).

    David Harmon, I think that's part of the problem with beauty claims. Many of them do have a basis in sound science, or at least the theory does, and then they layer a load of crackpot ideas on it to sell vaseline massages. It's very much like politics or tabloid media in that regard – you have to start with a little bit of truth and spin your story around that; people will see the true bit and assume that the rest of it must be as well.

    I despise spurious beauty claims but they are largely the domain of the financially comfortable, and as they don't generally harm your heath, I tend to view it as as much the fault of the consumer as the peddlar, especially when it comes to weight loss treatments like this one. There is a guaranteed foolproof method of losing weight, I call it the ELDM procedure. And it's not just cheap, it can actually save you money and improve your life! And yet, people instead spend hundreds on a quick treatment that will miraculously scoop 8 inches off their belly (for two days). It doesn't seem to occur to them that the reason they might be out of shape is precisely the same thing that drives them to the Ionithermie table for an hour – laziness.

    ELDM is pretty simple, just follow these two steps:

    Eat Less

    Do More.

    I can't say "sit back and watch the inches drop off", cause sitting around will hamper the results :D

  3. Ugh. Not "eat less, do more" but "eat better, do more (not baking)"

    Another angle that nobody hear has approached is the bit about the positively and negatively charged solutions. Now, it may be that this is just a problem of the copywriter not knowing exactly what was happening, but you're never going to get a solution that has a net positive or negative charge. Each one *will* have positive and negative ions floating about in it in just the amount to cancel each other out, but no solution will be charged.

  4. IMHO "eat better" is too vague, I know folk for whom that means having a salad with their Big Mac and fries, and they end up eating more. Of course, it is perfectly possible to be overweight and healthy (I'm more worried about the fat around my heart than my thighs) but the Ionithermie stuff is concerned with looking costmetically thin rather than being healthy.

    I must admit, I'm thin but unfit. Superficially it's nice to have a nice body, but I couldn't run 5 miles if I wanted to, which isn't a good thing really.

  5. I read "creates erythema" as "creates erythmia" which I assumed was a misspelling of "creates arrhythmia." Yay, you can shock me into cardiac arrhythmia, where do I sign up. Can I get some fibrilation while you're at it.

    Actually, I suppose having people randomly shock my fat would be more likely to mess up my heart than to cause me to lose weight.

  6. Actually, their use of "erythema" is probably a mess-up for "erythraemia" (UK spelling; remove the "a" for US spelling) which is an excessive concentration of red blood cells. They probably intended to mean that your RBC count increases but not to an excessive amount. Unfortunately, "erythema" is also a valid term for, basically, redness of the skin. ("Eryth-" is the Greek prefix meaning "red".)

    Either way… pseudo-science ahoy!

  7. Indeed, the solutions themselves aren't going to be negatively or positively charged by themselves.

    And I love how they're explaining how current will flow from the negative electrode to the positive one, as if that's something unusual, or even relevant.

  8. Guys, all I can say is that you are really showing your ignorance with regard to science and the medical field. If you think there is no such thing as positively or negatively charged ions, you need to take a basic course on the chemistry of life.

    Another thing that may be of interest to you (or that would help you understand all the things you seem to think you know but obviously don't) is the medical case study by Dr. Gustavo Leibaschoff, MD and Dr. Juliana Melamed, MD, submitted to the FDA sometime the end of 2005 or beginning of 2006. Through the use of a videocapillaroscope, the study shows both photographical and clinical evidence of how the Ionithermie treatment is effective in the reduction of cellulite.

    It's interesting to see that Ionithermie, after over 25 years of being performed in Europe (and covered by inusurance companies in some medical cases), and now being performed around the world and on over 100 luxury cruise ships, is now being declared by you guys "A Good Old-Fashioned Leg Pull" when arriving in the United States.

    As for me, I have had Ionithermie treatments going back over 10 years and know that it works. Unfortunately my body is a living organism and as I age, it continues to work less effectively and needs an occasional boost in detoxification. And hey, the fiming, slimming, and smoothing out of the cellulite in those areas that were hard with toxins is a great side benefit to the fact IONITHERMIE softened those hardened areas and cleared out the toxins so that my capillaries can now get into the area and burn the fat that was previously unreachable by my capillaries. It's that simple and it WORKS!

    Have a good day! (P.S. Anyone here named Ryan Craig, this is right up his alley.)

  9. Except–there is a difference between knowing that there are ions, and *making wild claims about what the ions can do*. Which is what ionothermie does.

    Also, the FDA mainly certifies that something is safe–not that it is effective. (Effective comes into play much later in the regulatory process.)

    Give me a citation to a peer-reviewed, clinical trial in a major journal like NEJM, and I'll begin to consider your comments.

  10. Linda sid:

    "Guys, all I can say is that you are really showing your ignorance with regard to science and the medical field. If you think there is no such thing as positively or negatively charged ions, you need to take a basic course on the chemistry of life."

    Who said anything about positively or negatively charged ions? I'm talking about positively and negatively charged saline solutions.

    Apart from that, the website just reads like any other scam treatment that sells its crap on the internet (and before that probably in some sort of Amway scheme). Complete with testimonials and buzzwords like "toxins" and "energy levels".

    So what does that mean? Well, read it yourself:

    There's no proven treatment against cellulite, because it's just a build-up of fat. Although some treatments might give some women temporary improvement (that is a hell of a lot of IFs), in the end there's no cure for it (yet).

    But what's more, your skin is not designed to absorb anything, in fact, it's meant to keep things out. Adding electricity to the mix isn't going to do much else, except allow the victim patient to feel that something is working and increase their wishfull thinking.

    But hey, if it makes you happy to grease up and electrify your thighs, go for it …

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