It’d be nice if you could stop getting old, if plopping your kid in front of the TV would teach her new words, and if there were heaters and air-cooling units that really were free—and that really worked as advertised. Then again, it’d be a miracle if advertisers actually told the whole, unvarnished truth.
Here are 10 not-so-upfront, not-so-miraculous “miracle” products:
Pom Wonderful Juice
MIRACLE CLAIM: This “antioxidant superpower” is straight-up “health in a bottle” that’ll help you “Cheat Death,” with beneficial effects on everything from prostate cancer to cardiovascular health to impotence.
UNMIRACULOUS TRUTH: The FTC says there is no science to back up the claims. The results of studies that have been done show that Pom products show no more efficacy than a placebo. Source
MIRACLE CLAIM: An “Amish man’s new miracle idea” will slash your heating bills while heating your home. Two of these “miracle heaters” are even available for free.
UNMIRACULOUS TRUTH: The two “free” heaters actually cost $600 when you add in the costs of the mantels and shipping (both mandatory costs). Oh, and the electric heater is made in China, has no connection whatsoever to the Amish (who don’t use electricity), and it provides as much heat—and uses up just as much energy—as any old $40 space heater. Source
Acai Berry Diet Supplements
MIRACLE CLAIM: Pills, powders, and drinks incorporating acai berries—a dark blue species from South America—will boost your metabolism and help you lose weight rapidly, and customers were welcomed to try a free trial of the product.
UNMIRACULOUS TRUTH: When customers signed up for their “free” sample, they were automatically charged $68, and many found it extremely difficult to get the money refunded. Consumers who used the product complained of cramps, diarrhea, and nausea, and the Federal Trade Commission stated that one of the acai products “does not cause rapid and substantial weight loss” and that the company producing the supplements “deceived consumers across the country out of tens of millions of dollars.” Source
MIRACLE CLAIM: The uniquely rounded soles of “toning shoes,” which sell for upwards of $200, will help wearers better tone their legs, calves, and butts, burn more calories, and lose more weight compared to those wearing normal sneakers.
UNMIRACULOUS TRUTH: A recent study concluded, “There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.” Source
MIRACLE CLAIM: Creams such as Dermitage, which promise to restore youthful-looking skin, are often available via 14-day free trials when orders are placed on the Internet.
UNMIRACULOUS TRUTH: Many consumers don’t realize that when they’re ordering their sample, they’re automatically signed up to be charged $99 a month for regular monthly shipments, and that the “14-day” trial begins when the order is placed, not when the customer receives the product in the mail a few days later. Also, there’s no indication these products work any better than a typical moisturizer. Source
MIRACLE CLAIM: Found in grapes (and red wine), resveratrol is said to improve blood flow, prevent cancer and other diseases, and help control diabetes, and a scientist from Harvard says that he himself takes the substance and can vouch for its effectiveness.
UNMIRACULOUS TRUTH: The Harvard scientist in question says he never uttered any of the quotes attributed to him. Resveratrol supplements have not been the subject of widespread clinical trials, and while some health benefits have been seen from taking small doses of the substance, a single pill might contain as much resveratrol as in 100 bottles of wine, and no one really knows the effects of putting that into your body regularly in such high concentrations. In tests, rats given high doses actually experienced worse heart attacks than control groups. Source
MIRACLE CLAIM: An extract derived from the ginkgo tree has been heralded since the 1970s for its ability to improve memory and prevent cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
UNMIRACULOUS TRUTH: In a huge study of elderly people, those taking ginkgo did no better on brain-functioning tests than those taking placebos. Source
MIRACLE CLAIM: Infants and toddlers who watch this series of DVDs (part of Baby Einstein) will learn new vocabulary words.
UNMIRACULOUS TRUTH: Over the course of a six-week study, researchers found that kids who watched the DVDs didn’t learn any more words than kids who skipped the videos. Source
Intelligender Gender Prediction Test
MIRACLE CLAIM: Selling for $30 and up at national drugstores, Intelligender says it’ll provide “Clear Results in Just Minutes” for women eager to find out the sex of their baby, even if they are only six weeks pregnant. All a woman has to do is buy the product, pee in a cup, and wait 10 minutes to see if it’s a boy or a girl.
UNMIRACULOUS TRUTH: Many obstetricians say the tests are a waste of money, that they’re about as accurate as a coin flip or a random guess. Despite words referring to “clear results,” the manufacturer intentionally uses the word “prediction” to allow for inaccuracy, and to indicate that there’s something crystal ball-ish to the test. Source
MIRACLE CLAIM: The “new miracle air cooler is actually being given away free,” and it’ll help you “stay cool for pennies a day.”
UNMIRACULOUS TRUTH: To get your “free” unit, you must purchase another one, so you wind up paying roughly $400 with shipping for two of the machines. On the plus side, the units don’t cost much to run—because, on the negative side, it is little more than a no-frills fan that blows air over a bag of ice. Source