Sunday, 18 April 2010

Menopause Magnets

Menopause is still largely a taboo subject, rarely mentioned in mainstream media and then often in negative or jokey terms. It's seen as a time of loss, of change for the worse, a decrease in femininity, the start of old age and decrepitude. Despite the best efforts of some women to promote The Change as just another life phase, a time of increasing wisdom, there is rarely anything good said about it in Western Culture, along with plenty of scare stories about HRT.

The recent emergence of Cougar Women appears positive. These are older women who are still sexually active, often with younger men. The trouble is, the main Cougar message appears to be that it's fine to be older as long as you don't look like you are. Being a Cougar is about cheating time, not about celebrating the sexuality of older women.

It's no surprise then that women are anxious about the menopause. Taking HRT is seen as, at best, a gamble, a necessary evil. Doing nothing is rarely presented as an option. Which makes women a prime target for 'alternative' remedies.

One of these is LadyCare, a magnetic device worn in the underwear.

The website claims that 'LadyCare may help to reduce or completely eliminate the symptoms of menopause'. It goes further: Ladycare 'may prove to be one of the greatest natural solutions for the alleviation of menopause symptoms'- including 'Feelings of Doom'. By invoking the N word (natural), it plays on women's fears of side effects (because natural things are safe and soft and fluffy, of course. Like deadly nightshade, ricin, cyanide, hemlock and death cap mushrooms).

What is it? According to the website, it's 'a small powerful, static magnetic device that simply attaches discreetly and comfortably to your underwear' and which should be worn about four inches below the navel.

That's it. That's the sum total of the information about how it works. There is a link that will take you to an 'extensive list of trials'. There has been one trial. Ladycare was worn day and night for three months by 508 women. There is also, apparently, the LadyCare Double Blind Trial underway with results expected in January 2010. It's mid-April now and no signs of any such results.

Although they are careful to use words like 'may' and 'reported', they are clearly making a link between wearing the magnets and symptomatic relief. There is also a warning that users 'may experience a slight detox effect' for the first 24 hours of use, including mild nausea and headaches. This would suggest that there is some active process going on.

What could it be? I've written before about therapeutic magnets, on that occasion magnets sewn into hijabs to alleviate a range of symptoms with some background to magnet therapy and also a link to a BMJ article.

Why don't magnets work? Blood is not ferro-magnetic. In other words, yes there is iron in blood but it does not respond to magnets, not even really really powerful ones. Which is just as well or anyone in an MRI scanner would explode.


To get technical, a therapeutic effect is unrealistic because any magnetic effect is entirely overwhelmed by the thermal motion, not to mention haemodynamic forces, in flowing blood. Incidentally, there are only about 3 or 4g of iron in the body anyway, and not all of that in the blood.

LadyCare is at best a placebo, at worst a health threat.

The magnets 'may' also cause weight loss - one of the listed problems associated with menopause. The website reports a 'median weight loss of 14lbs' in the 508 women trial. Cougar women must be thin and look like Courtney Cox.

More worryingly, there is a question in the FAQs about whether diabetics can use LadyCare and the response is: 'We've had many cases reported of sugar levels being reduced with the use of LadyCare'. The use of the word 'reported' is a get out of jail free card but the association is there.

There are testimonials but anecdotes are not evidence. Expecting to feel better often leads to feeling better especially if women follow the one bit of common sense advice on the website about leading a healthy lifestyle - diet, exercise and relaxation.

LadyCare uses various sales tactics: the promotion of the product as natural, feeble science, testimonials - and fear.



HRT is discussed in what starts out as a reasonable tone: 'In some cases, HRT may be the right thing for women who find themselves unable to function without it for a while (...) So, be kind to yourself, accept whatever decision you have made...'. But then there are a series of images of (mostly tabloid) newspaper headlines that shout things like 'HRT is linked to cancer', 'HRT raises cancer and stroke risks' and 'Millions in HRT danger' followed by a long list of serious HRT side-effects.

LadyCare, it says, has no side effects. That's because it has no effects. The mention of the 'slight detox effect' is bunkum. It's safe because it does nothing except possibly make you feel a bit more positive.

The man behind LadyCare is Dr Nyjon Eccles BsC, MBBS, MRCP, PhD. His CV is here and says, among other things, that 'He is primarily a general and naturopathic physician and has special interest and experience in complementary nutritional supportive treatments that promote well-being and recovery'. He runs the Chiron Clinic in Harley Street that offers a whole slew of alternative and complementary treatments which are, it claims, evidence-based. Which is an interesting use of 'evidence'.

His published research includes a study of 35 women with dysmenorrhea (painful periods) in 2005 that found a reduction in pain and irritability. Thirty five women do not make for compelling evidence and irritability is not exactly measurable on a scientifically quantifiable scale.

To sum up: There is nothing on the website that explains how LadyCare works. Probably because there is no evidence that magnets do work. Or because ladies don't need to know about all that science stuff. They've got more important things to worry their heads about. Especially when they're having hot flushes, mood swings, sleep loss and vaginal dryness. This is yet another product exploiting women at a vulnerable time in their lives purporting to be both scientific and natural when it is nothing of the kind. You might as well put a lucky rabbit's foot down your pants. Or a photo of Dr Nyjon Eccles.

Ladycare is made by Magnopulse Ltd, a self-proclaimed 'leader in magnotherapy' who started out selling pet-related magnetic products and then moved on to treating humans. Quackometer reports that in 2007 Magnopulse were forced to change their advertising about other magnetic products by the Office of Fair Trading.

LadyCare costs £19.95 including p&p, or you can buy it in Boots for £19.49. Boots is, of course, the place that sells homeopathic remedies not because there is any evidence they work but because people like them.

Update 2.11.17: As this blog is still very frequently read, you might like to know that Boots still sells Ladycare, now for £35, an increase of 80% in seven years. There's money in wombs.

9 comments:

  1. We never had this kind of thing happening when Tomorrows World was on the telly.

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  2. David Godsmark said....

    When they are eventually taken off the market, they can repackage them and sell them to middle aged men as 'Lady Magnets', Just pop them down the front of your Y fronts and away you go!

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  3. As a person who uses it, I must say that I have tried many types of vitamins and herbs. This is the first time that my hot flashes have stopped in 3 years two weeks after I started wearing the magnet. Just exercising, watching my weight and eating well have not been enough. Placebo maybe, but no more night sweats and hot flashes. Such a pleasure! Well worth the price for me.

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  4. @Jon_S pointed me to this on his blog : The company’s owner, Derek Price, told me on Friday that the other study listed on this page (a ‘double-blind trial and survey’) has not taken place due to current research, to be submitted for publication in mid-December, which he expects will vindicate his claims for the efficacy of his magnet-related products. He also told me that he does not ‘believe in double-blind trials’ as a means of testing potential treatments. In addition, Mr Price lamented the skepticism towards alternative therapies which he feels is widespread in the British medical profession; he believes that this is in part due to the influence of large drug companies.

    http://goo.gl/Dky0G

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  5. I have just purchased this for £10 as being discontinued by Boots. I have tried other types of magnets before which didn't work but anything is worth a try!!!!! I am not a great believer in alternative therapies just desperate & prepared to give anything a try. I am not sure that HRT is an option anymore........getting this out of my Doctor I am sure would be impossible. He has targets to meet!!!!

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  6. I tried a Lady Magnet with very little confidence that it would help (how can a magnet possibly stop hot flushes?) but it works! I stopped using it after a month, thinking it was just a coincidence, and the flushes returned.

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  7. Every ones body is different, and if you are not a woman you have no idea what we go through. After a lot of $$$ spent on test and the HRT that could develope into breast cancer, who wants to go through all that. Give the Ladycare a chance--if your body is so messed up 1 month may not be enough. Some women have to wear it for 3 months give it a chance. Magnets have been used for years for multiple things. Our body was not made by man so how could they know everything about what we need. My daughter has the ladycare for period pain and I use the other one I never have had a good night or deep sleep for 30 years, I had only got about 3-4 hours a night and now I do , no hot flashes and feel so much better. Every woman needs to do what they need to do to get relief and it has been Ladycare Magnets for me. I don't know how it works but it just does.

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  8. It is high time that some proper research was done on menopausal symptoms. It seems extraordinary that will cause issues for over 50% of the population but doesn't seem to have been properly researched. I was reading about hot flashes recently and it said that the mechanism that causes them isn't really understood; why the heck not?
    You can take HRT, but all that seems to do is replace the hormones, rather than reduce the effect of that natural reduction process.
    The menopause can cause misery for many and I'm sure is likely to be responsible for the breakdown of some relationships, so it doesn't just affect women.
    All my friends who are going through this are trying anything and everything,; it shouldn't be like this.

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