NOTE: Events are currently being held online. Go to MeetUp page for details. On the first Thursday of each month, Australian Skeptics and friends get together in the Occidental Hotel at 43 York Street, Sydney (on the corner of Erskine Street and behind Wynyard train station). Head up the stairs (or...
Over the past couple of years, the attention of Australian Skeptics has been drawn to a long line of so called “Power Bands”. Yet another contender – the Shuzi ‘nano-vibrational technology‘ – has recently been investigated by the Skeptics.
Broadly speaking, the promoters of these ‘power bands’ claim the devices can affect your well-being, balance, strength and so forth. Most use the long since debunked ‘Body Balance’ tests1 together with pseudoscientific terminology in order to convince potential customers at outings such as fitness expos and new age festivals.
Readers may well remember our investigations and testing on national TV of the “Power Balance” band (sold for $60) and how that band was eventually labelled a fake by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.2
This was followed up by our open letter of concern to the makers of the “NRG Titanium Ion Band” (sold for $49.99) and the retailer Rebel Sport. Soon thereafter, Rebel Sport stopped selling the band, with the unsold stock ending up in a trash and treasure store for $2.00 each.3
Recently, and with the assistance of Australian Skeptics, another power band was tested live on stage at The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas. The “Dynactiv SR” band failed to live up to the claims of its inventor with the test result being consistent with random chance.3a
This brings us to the claims and convoluted story of “Shuzi”, also known as “Shuzi Qi”and its so-called “Nano-Vibrational Technology” for not only humans, but pets as well! Shuzi sells bands, pendants and bracelets ranging from $89 up to $399.
We first came across Shuzi at Sydney’s Festival of Mind Body Spirit in 2010 when Richard Saunders from Australian Skeptics questioned the exhibitors about the various health claims being made for their power band and noticed that the above mentioned ‘Body Balance’ tests were being used. He offered the exhibitors the chance to be tested for our $100,000 prize and followed this up with this email.
Hello Shuzi Health Jewellery
After visiting your stand at Sydney’s Mind Body Spirit Festival and having a ‘balance test’ by one of your representatives, I would like to extend to you an offer from Australian Skeptics to apply for our $100,000 prize.
In order to win the prize all you need do is prove in agreed tests that your products work as claimed and really do have an effect on balance. There was no doubt about this claim in the mind of the representatives at the Festival.
If successful, and apart from the $100,000 (tax free) Shuzi Health Jewellery would also receive world wide publicity.
More information about the prize can be found here.
This led shortly thereafter to a strange set of phone calls being received at the Australian Skeptics office, and left on the answering machine. The caller claimed to be one Gary Goodfellow who is the Director of Shuzi NZ Limited.
“Goodfellow here. Hi, it’s Gary Goodfellow here. I have to say we’ll take your challenge legally… it’s Shuzi … I’m gonna take your challenge for a million dollars because we know you’re just big scammers. Why can’t we come and give this challenge to you? We are ready. So just give me a ring. I’m Gary Goodfellow.”
“Hi this is Gary Goodfellow, from Gary Shuzi. I’m from Shuzi I want to take your scam on. I want to [unclear] your million dollars. Anyway, get a hold of me, I’m Gary at Shuzi at 0XX XXXXXXX. And this is New Zealand I’m ringing from. So it’s 0XX XXXXXX. Gary Goodfellow thinks you’re a lot of scammers.”
You can hear the calls for yourself. Phone messages mp3
(We have intentionally bleeped out the phone numbers.)
Mr Goodfellow now denies he ever phoned the Skeptics’ office, so we are left to wonder who else would know of our offer to Shuzi and bother to impersonate him? Apart from the misunderstanding of the prize amount (a common error), whoever it was seemed very eager to apply for the Australian Skeptics prize and show us up to be “scammers”.
Attempts to contact the numbers given were unsuccessful and further emails to Shuzi received no reply. The matter was put on the back-burner until May 2012, when once again Richard Saunders happened across the stand of Shuzi at Sydney’s Festival of Mind Body Spirit.
Predictably the representatives were still using the ‘Body Balance’ routine. Saunders, a little fed up with seeing the same old thing yet again, showed one representative from Shuzi exactly how the tests really worked, only this time he used a plain old rubber band. Within moments Saunders was ushered away from the stand by none other than Gary Goodfellow himself who complained that we had not taken up his challenge! Once again the Skeptics’ prize was offered with Goodfellow saying he would “take it anytime!”. He gave Saunders his business card which had on the back an outline of some of the ‘Body Balance’ tests. (See above image.)
Over the following weeks, many, many emails flowed between Saunders and other skeptics, Goodfellow and Frank Pangallo from the ‘Today Tonight’ news program who expressed great interest in filming any tests for the prize for national TV.
At the request of Goodfellow and to show our good faith, the skeptics held back on publicly criticising the various claims made by Shuzi, including their questionable science. An outline for a fair test was offered to Shuzi, they responded with questions and comments, we replied, answering their concerns, and on it went. Our patience was tested when Goodfellow eventually told us that he would need to get permission from “Shuzi Headquarters” in order to proceed, and that this would take another six weeks! In one last act of good faith, the Skeptics granted Goodfellow his request.
It may not come as any surprise that, when this time had passed and after a few more emails concerning the possible test, Goodfellow once again told us it would take yet another six weeks for him to hear back from Shuzi Headquarters.
Our reply was as follows:
“We are not pleased at all with this further delay. We have given you a golden chance to do what you do at sports and new age fairs around the country and win our prize in a fair test. The fact that you are unable or unwilling speaks volumes. We suspect that you will never get permission from your headquarters but wonder why you just don’t rock up and take the test anyway.
“We will publish our concerns about Shuzi and examine the so-called science you use to justify the claims. We will also throw open our test and prize to anyone at all from your company or anyone at all from the public who has bought a Shuzi product. I’m sure we can find someone with a Shuzi who will appear on TV to show us and the world how well it works.”
We have received no reply, but we did discover something very interesting and telling about Shuzi’s operations in Australia. It seems that sometime in the last few weeks they up and left!
According to their web site (6th of August 2012) – http://www.shuziqi.com.au:
“Sorry! Shuzi’s Australia Distributor has decided to leave Australia to focus on other ventures.
“Shuzi no longer has a presence in Australia, but our products can still be purchased from the Shuzi International site of www.shuzination.com
“Don’t worry we ship all around Oceania!”
As mentioned earlier, some companies like to employ a range pseudoscientific terminology and concepts in order to give credibility to their products and the claims. We feel Shuzi should be awarded a gold medal in this respect for the list of medical pseudoscience and outright quackery used on its websites (they are still in operation in other countries). But what is of even more concern is that Shuzi was and still is listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as a “Medical Device Class 1”.4
Here are but a few (there were too many to list them all) of the claims made by Shuzi on its various web sites and other web sites promoting their products. Note that some of these sites may well disappear in the near future.
- “stimulate and strengthen the body’s biofield”4
Skeptics comment: The “Body’s Biofield” is a new age term and is not used in medicine or science. It has no real meaning, and there is no definition of what “Biofield” is. It is not to the credit of the TGA that such nonsense is given official recognition.
- “provide healthier blood”5
Skeptics comment: Shuzi relies heavily on results from “Live Blood Analysis”. This form of diagnosis is not recognised as scientifically valid by the medical profession. The tests reported seem to have no proper scientific controls.
- “This is important because when cells lose the ability to communicate with other cells, they become isolated and confused. It has been theorized that cancer or tumor cells are isolated cells that have lost their ability to communicate. Shuzi helps the cells stay in communication.”6
Skeptics comment: We fear this could be read as a claim to treat or prevent cancer.
- “greater strength and muscle endurance, greater energy, better balance, and an increase in flexibility”7
Skeptics comment: These refer to the classic ‘body balance’ tests. These tests are nothing more than sideshow entertainment.
- “The Shuzi Chip has been programmed utilizing “Nano Vibrational Technology”8
Skeptics comment: “Nano Vibrational Technology” seems to just be three science-sounding words strung together. The only reference to this technology is from Shuzi itself.
- “Shuzi Qi strengthens and fine-tunes the human biofield, making your mind and body more resistant to the effects of stress in any form, including electromagnetic fields (EMF), harmful emissions radiating from electronic equipment such as cell phones, computers and hair dryers.”9
Skeptics comment: We can find no credible evidence for this claim, let alone for any device such as a wristband that could protect the wearer in such a manner.
- “In thermography studies performed, Shuzi’s NVT effects can be seen in less than 30 minutes in the form of improved circulation and increased blood flow.”10
Skeptics comment: Thermography is not considered to be a valid diagnostic tool in medical science. The tests reported seem to have no proper scientific controls.
Even though Australian Skeptics regard the claims made by Shuzi for its various products to be without credible foundation, we still offer Gary Goodfellow or anyone at all from Shuzi the opportunity to take our challenge. We hold very little hope they ever will. We call on the TGA to take greater care when issuing what appears to be approval of questionable products and devices. We also remind the promoters of the Festival of Mind Body Spirit that they have a duty of care in regards to their patrons and should take a careful look at who they allow to exhibit.
We note that other skeptical groups from around the world are also offering to test Shuzi in their various countries and regions. If your group has done so, or is interested in making such an offer, we would very much like to know.
Update September 4th 2012
Our colleagues at ‘The Merseyside Skeptics Society’ in the UK have produced a video of tests they conducted as part of their investigations into Shuzi.
The test was carried out after attempts to work with Shuzi directly stalled. Michael Marshall, vice-president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society reports that,
We originally approached Shuzi in June, voicing our concerns – at first they seemed keen to offer us proof that their products were anything more than another expensive sports fad. When Shuzi stopped returning our emails and calls, we decided to test their bracelet ourselves – and it’s fair to say the results didn’t surprise us too much.
If Shuzi still believe their product really works, we’d love to see their evidence – and I’d certainly be happy to work with them in conducting another test. Otherwise, consumers should be aware that these products simply don’t live up to the marketing hype.”
You can read their report, “Testing Shuzi” and view the video at: