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Many people tell me to wear a magnetic or copper bracelet to improve my arthritis is there any science behind this? Many online shops sell copper bracelets containing magnets for their health effects.

Here is an excerpt of the claim from I Love Copper

Copper cuff bracelets are designed to not close completely. The small opening between the ends of the bracelet creates positive and negative magnetic fields that are supposed to help energy flow through the body. In addition, the body absorbs small amounts of copper into the blood stream when the bracelet is worn. Copper Link bracelets will also aid in circulation problems by simply having contacy with the skin.

[...]

One of the most common claims of the copper bracelet for hundreds of years has been that copper bracelets cure joint pain from conditions like arthritis. This was generally accepted for a long time but along the way doctors and scientists began to doubt the truth behind this claim. However, in 1983, Australian doctors G.R. Struthers and D.L Scott from the St. George Hospital conducted studies on different alternative methods for relieving arthritis pain. Their results showed that arthritis sufferers noticed significant relief from joint pain when wearing copper bracelets. While they are not exactly sure why, their research showed that using copper bracelets does help relieve arthritis pain. They concluded that doctors should consider copper bracelets along with other treatment methods for arthritis pain.

A Daily Mail article claims:

Copper has anti-inflammatory effects in the body, and may therefore have painkilling properties. One study showed that copper from a bracelet can be absorbed into the body, and it does seem that this can offer some relief from arthritic pain.

Skeptics.SE has dealt with questions about the effects of magnetism before, but there don't seem to be any analyses of the possible health effects of copper bracelets.

So what does the balance of evidence say about the possible health effects of copper bracelets?

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Much better now. Thanks Matt and Odd for your input - reopened. –  Sklivvz Jan 5 '13 at 22:56
    
they will turn your wrist green in the rain... –  ratchet freak Jan 7 '13 at 11:11
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1 Answer

No... There is no evidence that copper bracelets are any more useful than a hologram, or an ion bracelet, or a piece of amber, etc. (See below for a minor caveat.) Any effect that could be out there is nothing more than the [placebo effect] (Link to abstract on placebo effect for this specific mechanism)1.

If you had read the linked question, you should ask yourself the same question as from that answer:

This is an excellent opportunity to practice grass roots skepticism. Ask yourself: By what mechanism is this supposed to work? How does the proposed mechanism align with what we know about science, biology, physics, etc.? Also, you may be interested to know that in some countries, Power Balance must state that they have no actual scientific backing for their claims. The Placebo band is just as effective, and much cheaper.

To directly answer your question, The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences clearly states:

Myth: Wearing a copper bracelet can cure arthritis.

Reality: Arthritis is a condition that results in deterioration and loss of the joint surface cartilage, basically the repair process fails to keep up with the breakdown. Copper bracelets have long been sold as a cure for arthritis, vendors propose that the metal is absorbed through the skin and helps cartilage regeneration. But there are certain facts you should know before you rush out and buy that bracelet, says Dr. Randy Bindra, director of the Center for Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery at UAMS. “Copper is a component of some of the normal cellular enzymes and we require very small amounts of copper in our daily diet,” says Dr. Bindra. Mineral-rich foods include vegetables (potatoes), legumes (beans and peas), nuts (peanuts and pecans), grains (wheat and rye) and fruits (peach and raisin). “Copper deficiency is extremely rare and most regular diets provide enough copper to meet the daily requirements. Supplementation is only needed in patients with other serious medical conditions that affect their gastrointestinal tract and impair their ability to absorb nutrients.” While it’s never been proven that copper can copper be absorbed through the skin by wearing a bracelet, research has shown that excessive copper can result in poisoning, causing vomiting and, in severe cases, liver damage. “This can be seen after ingesting foods boiled in copper vessels or from contamination of water from corroding copper pipes. In reality no modality of treatment has been shown to cure or reverse the changes of arthritis,” says Dr. Bindra.

All these silly assertions are nothing more than marketing schemes... As the University of Maryland Medical Center states (emphasis mine):

Copper bracelets are often marketed to people with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as a way to relieve symptoms, but there' s no evidence that they work.

The University of Maryland page also has an extensive reading list that may help you go to actual scientific sites that do tell you what copper is actually good for though (it does have uses, which is what charlatans will use to make their distorted claims). If you search reputable sources, you will find a distinct lack of evidence. It is best to practice good baloney detection for things like this.

CAVEAT:

As the University of Maryland page shows, there are some uses for copper, however, these are ingested routes. Topical applications are also known in some compounds that use copper as a binding peptide. Neither of these involve the wearing of a copper band, nor does the band display any mechanism by which it would even simulate the useful uses...


FURTHER READING

Araya M, Pizarro F, Olivares M, Arredondo M, Gonzalez M, Mendez M. Understanding copper homeostasis in humans and copper effects on health. Biol Res. 2006;39(1):183-7.

Borkow G, Gabbay J, Zatcoff RC. Could chronic wounds not heal due to too low copper levels? Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(3):610-3.

Bugel, S., Harper, A., Rock, E., O'Connor, J. M., Bonham, M. P., and Strain, J. J. Effect of copper supplementation on indices of copper status and certain CVD risk markers in young healthy women. BrJ Nutr 2005;94(2):231-236.

Christen Y. Oxidative stress and Alzheimer's disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71(2):621S-629S.

Geerling BJ, Badart-Smook A, Stockbrügger RW, Brummer R-JM. Comprehensive nutritional status in recently diagnosed patients with inflammatory bowel disease compared with population controls. EAur J Clin Nutr. 2000;54:514-521.

Harless W, Crowell E, Abraham J. Anemia and neutropenia associated with copper deficiency of unclear etiology. Am J Hematol. 2006;81(7):546-9.

Huff JD, Keung YK, Thakuri M, Beaty MW, Hurd DD, Owen J, Molnar I. Copper deficiency causes reversible myelodysplasia. Am J Hematol. 2007;82(7):625-30.

Kumar N, Butz JA, Burritt MF. Clinical significance of the laboratory determination of low serum copper in adults. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2007;45(10):1402-10.

lein D, Lichtmannegger J, Heinzmann U, Summer KH. Dissolution of copper-rich granules in hepatic lysosomes by D-penicillamine prevents the development of fulminant hepatitis in Long-Evans cinnamon rats. J Hepatol. 2000;32(2):193-201.

Mahabir S, Spitz MR, Barrera SL, Beaver SH, Etzel C, Forman MR. Dietary zinc, copper and selenium, and risk of lung cancer. Int J Cancer. 2007;120(5):1108-15.

Milanino R, Marrella M, Crivellente F, Benoni G, Cuzzolin L. Nutritional supplementation with copper in the rat. Effects on adjuvant arthritis develoment and on some in vivo- and ex vivo-markers of blood neutrophils. Inflamm Res. 2000;49(5):214-223.

Nagano T, Toyoda T, Tanabe H, et al., Clinical features of hematological disorders caused by copper deficiency during long-term enteral nutrition. Intern Med. 2005;44(6):554-9.

Richmond SJ, Brown SR, Campion PD, Porter AJ, Moffett JA, Jackson DA, Featherstone VA, Taylor AJ. Therapeutic effects of magnetic and copper bracelets in osteoarthritis: a randomised placebo-controlled crossover trial. Complement Ther Med. 2009 Oct-Dec;17(5-6):249-56.

Rottkamp CA, Nunomura A, Raina AK, Sayre LM, Perry G, Smith MA. Oxidative stress, antioxidants, and Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer Disease Assoc Disorders. 2000;14(Suppl 1):S62-S66.

Strause L, Saltman P, Smith KT, et al. Spinal bone loss in postmenopausal women supplemented with calcium and trace minerals. J Nutr. 1994;124:1060-4.

Tamura T, Turnlund JR. Effect of long-term, high-copper intake on the concentrations of plasma homocysteine and B vitamins in young men. Nutrition. 2004;20(9):757-9.

Thomson SW, Heimburger DC, Cornwell PE, et al. Correlates of total plasma homocysteine: folic acid, copper, and cervical dysplasia. Nutrition. 2000;16(6):411-416.

Turnlund, J. R., Keyes, W. R., Kim, S. K., and Domek, J. M. Long-term high copper intake: effects on copper absorption, retention, and homeostasis in men. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81(4):822-828.

Source: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/copper-000296.htm#ixzz2HA8nr8io Follow us: @UMMC on Twitter | MedCenter on Facebook

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