The answer appears to be a resounding yes, if you believe the saltwater contains something that should make you a faster runner, according to a new study of the power of placebos in athletic performance.
It’s rare (but becoming more common) to find the placebo effect studied as a phenomenon in its own right. This carefully considered and researched article points to several perspectives …
1. There are two processes going on, the placebo and the placebo effect.
2. Placebo effects are not caused by the object (e.g. the pill) or the procedure (e.g. an injection)
3. Much of what is considered to be placebo improvement may actually be patient report of improvement, without any actual physical improvement.
4. The patient’s inaccurate perception of a successful treatment in the therapeutic environment is also influenced by:
The natural course of the disease
The Hawthorne effect
Regression to the mean
5. The placebo effect is not “the power of positive thinking” or belief, hope, mind over matter or the mind healing the body
Image: James Merry
It seems that using an esteemed name-brand piece of sporting equipment actually generates stronger results.
“Our results indicate that strong performance brands can cause an effect that is akin to a placebo effect,” researcher Frank Germann of the Department of Marketing at the University of Notre Dame said in a press release. “Our results also suggest that the use of a strong performance brand causes participants to feel better about themselves when undertaking a task—that is, to have greater task-specific self-esteem. This higher self-esteem lowers their performance anxiety which, in turn, leads to the better performance outcomes.”
It’s bad news if you’re Icelandic or Australian. Over at I Fucking Love Science they point out that “the report only covered the pharmaceutical habits of “developed countries.” Also, the United States – the original “Prozac Nation” – did not feature in this particular set of data. Separate data has shown 10% of Americans are prescribed antidepressants, which would put them second on this graph. We should also note that this is per thousand people, not by the total number consumed.”
If a drug company treats a doctor to a nice lunch and a presentation on their newest products, is prescribing affected? Doctors generally think not, but the research evidence overwhelmingly says yes. And if these events do affect doctors’ decisions on patient care, should we be worried?
Couldn’t they just prescribe placebos? Of course not! Where’s the profit in that?
Placebo beats pill for all but most severely depressed, study shows.
“Antidepressants are little better than placebos except for in severely clinically depressed samples,” Johnson said. “The implication was that medical doctors are overprescribing antidepressants because most patients are not severely depressed.”
“A common operation for back pain is not only ineffective but often leads to complications, a former spinal surgeon is claiming in a new book. In Surgery, The Ultimate Placebo Ian Harris says that when spine fusion operations appear to work, it’s usually because of a placebo effect.” Full article here
An interesting distinction between ‘pure’ and impure’ placebos! (Universal Placebos are unapologetically PURE!)
“A pure placebo is a straightforwardly fake treatment – a saline injection or a sugar pill, for instance, that is represented as a drug.
An impure placebo is a substance or treatment that does have clinical value, but not for the condition for which it is being prescribed.
Impure placebos can be vitamins, nutritional supplements, antibiotics for viral infections, sub-clinical doses of drugs, unproven complementary and alternative medicines, or unnecessary blood tests to calm an anxious patient.”
A UK survey in 2012 showed that 1% of GPs use ‘pure’ placebos at least once a week, and an extraordinary 77% use ‘impure’ placebos at the same rate (though we suspect that’s often the habit of prescribing so-called ‘useless’ antibiotics for viral infections).