Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thermal undies

New from the "How Can Anyone Actually Fall For That?" department, we have a story today from Australia that an entrepreneur with more creativity than ethics is getting rich selling "fat-burning underwear."  [Source]

Brazcom Imports, a company based in South Australia, has sold over 500,000 pairs of "Scala Shapewear" undergarments, which (according to their website) contain "Active BioCrystals" that emit "far infrared" rays.  This "kick starts something called the BioPromise effect," and "melts fat away."  And they seem to mean melt in the literal sense; the "Active BioCrystals" supposedly liquify fat cells, in the fashion of bacon grease melting in a frying pan on your stove, and then the body... I dunno, does something with it, I guess.  They never mention where the melted fat goes, so I suppose it just goes "away."

I should mention at this point that Brazcom's managing director, Tim Nielsen, is apparently a Ph.D. in biochemistry.  I'm not surprised, frankly; it would take someone with a considerable background in science to invent pseudoscience this idiotic.  I mean, if you didn't have a thorough understanding of how the natural world really works, you might include something in your advertisements that was true by accident.  To successfully avoid all of the facts requires that you know what the facts actually are.

Brazcom and Nielsen came under fire recently from Dr. Ken Harvey, associate professor of public health at LaTrobe University, who wrote an exposé of the product (and their sales pitch), identifying the claims as pseudoscience.  "It's classic pseudoscience, with words that look like they might mean something," Dr. Harvey said, in an interview with News.Com.Au.  "It's ludicrous."  He goes on to explain what I would have thought anyone with an IQ of at least double digits would realize; that if your underwear were emitting enough heat to melt subcutaneous fat, they would leave significant burns on parts of your body that most of us would prefer to remain unscorched.  Oh, yeah; and there's no such thing as the "BioPromise effect" or "Active BioCrystals."

Brazcom, of course, heatedly denies that they're hoodwinking their customers.  It's all science, Nielsen claims, and has been "clinically proven."  (Their use of this phrase will be a central piece of Dr. Harvey's case against Brazcom, which is due to be heart by the Therapeutic Products Advertising Complaints Resolution Panel next month.)  Nielsen's defense of the company took an unintentionally humorous turn, however, when he stated that the fat-melting underwear's amazing sales was a "testament to its effectiveness."

Because, of course, you know that overweight people never purchase fad diet stuff unless it's been proven to work by reputable scientists.

It will be interesting to see how Australian officials handle the whole thing.  Here in the United States, the oversight of "nutritional supplements" and other such products of dubious effectiveness -- including all sorts of nutty ways to lose weight -- are barely regulated at all, as long as (1) no one dies from using them, and (2) the words "Not intended to treat or cure any medical condition" appear somewhere on the product, usually in a font so small you would need a scanning electron microscope to read it.  You have to wonder how many millions of dollars are wasted each year on bogus diet pills, fad weight loss programs, and bizarre procedures like "colon cleansing."

In any case, it's to be hoped that the case of the magic thermal fat-melting undies will be resolved in favor of rationality and science.  And that all of the people who were hoping literally to melt off a few pounds will return to doing the only thing that has been shown to take weight off and keep it off; eating less and exercising more.


  1. Yeah! Pseudoscience! Also, they chafe like crazy and the little tag really itches... what?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.