Junk built for the long-run

Almost everyone has heard the claims.

"Diet pop and cell phones can cause brain cancer." "Kellogg's whole-grain cereals prevent cancer." "Anti-bacterial products are creating strains of super germs and a glass of beer or wine a day reduces the risk of heart disease."

Most of these are fueled by Americans' obsession with longevity, and many do not have any scientific merit.

Junk science, as it is commonly referred to, has become commonplace in everyday news stories, and people are finding it increasingly more difficult to separate fact from fiction.

Steven J. Milloy, publisher of Junkscience.com and author of "Junk Science Judo," said junk science is fraud and it gives people a false sense of security while also taking their money.

"Junk science is the manipulation of statistics to promote special policy agendas that have nothing to do with public health or safety," Milloy said on his Web site. "It can be disseminated by special interest groups, social and political activists, businesses seeking to hurt rival companies, and politicians."

There is more to junk science than just health and safety issues. Novice athletes have become a major target for companies promoting new technologies that can help them achieve their maximum potential.

Ball State senior Stasha Ehman, an elementary education major, said she has been fooled by junk science ads in the past.

"I love to run and lift weights," Ehman said. "I used to buy shoes that were advertised as doing everything I would need. It seemed all you had to do was put them on and they would start running for you."

Instead, Ehman did not find that much difference in her performance, just less money in her wallet.

Recently, Adidas launched two brands of shoes amidst heavy celebrity marketing campaigns. Climacool and A3 are shoes that Adidas hopes appeals to consumers because people like the science behind them.

Climacool's, which cost $100 or more, supply ventilation and moisture management with the use of open mesh, to help provide a cooling effect for your entire foot.

Climacool trainers keep the foot cool and reduce heat and moisture by using Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA), the "open mesh" material. EVA, however, is the most commonly used midsole foam in running shoes, so really all the consumer is paying for with Climacool's are extra holes.

According to Adidas, the A3 claims to offer three benefits in a "unique energy management system." Their cushioning system keeps the foot centered in a neutral position, while it softens impact and assures the foot's positioning. In addition, the A3 allows for a smooth transition from the rear foot to the forefoot, all this for only $130.

Adidas claims both the A3 and the Climacool shoes do have the technology as advised; the Climacool does have superior ventilation, and the A3 does provide immediate correction of the athlete's footstrike.

Steve Schilling, a sophomore and member of the Ball State cross-country and track teams said most people buy these shoes because of the placebo effect.

"It's all mental, if you think it's going to make you better go with it, it probably will then," said Schilling. "Shoes advertise that they have special features, I just kind of buy shoes that fit well, ones that I trust. I usually stay with the same brand. I think a lot of the advertisements are nonsense."

"You'll see people who wear all that stuff and you almost laugh at them, because they are wearing all the new gear and it really doesn't help them, they just look good, it doesn't make them any better," Schilling said.

Some workout clothing also falls under the category of junk science.

Nike released Dri FIT technology using wicking materials that draw perspiration away from the skin to the outer surface of the clothing where it can evaporate quickly.

Dri FIT will not stop a person from sweating, but it will help them feel cooler and drier.

Joshua Dobbs, associate coordinator of the Adult Physical Fitness Program, advises students not to go by what manufactures say their products will do. Instead ask people who have used it or look for independent research.

"I reserve judgment on things like that until I see independent research," Dobbs said. "Some people are going to be really good at sports regardless of what products they use. Technology plays a role for some people, but for most it is genetic gifts."

Dobbs said that spending large amounts of money on products in hopes of to becoming an Olympian is foolish.

"I could give John McEnroe a $10 tennis racket from Walmart and he would still beat me at tennis," Dobbs said. "Everyone is guilty of buying into marketing. These products will not provide motivation, and the enhancement you see in performance will probably be minimal compared to the cost."

While the decision to use a product is up to each individual person, Dobbs said consistency in exercise and eating right is what will really help a person in the long run.

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