Medicine and life
Take this (advice / sofa / bed / shoe) with a pinch of salt?
I am in the process of moving house and have been looking round lots of furniture shops in the January sales for a bed, sofas and chairs.
In the last few weeks I have heard many extreme claims from sales advisors about the ‘health benefits’ of particular beds and chairs. I have been shown beds and mattresses that ‘improve circulation’ and ‘reduce asthma and lung problems’. When I moved away to look at the cheaper beds I was told some anecdotal evidence of people who had bought these asthma-eliminating beds and whose symptoms went away once they started using the bed. I have been told that buying a foot stool with a sofa or upgrading to reclining sofa will ‘take the strain off your heart by using a pump in your heel’.
I have been told the benefits of buying furniture containing ‘antibacterial foam’ and ‘anti-dust mite chemicals’. This was the first time I began to take the health claims seriously, and wondered if any of these ‘added chemicals’ could cause any harm. When I asked what exactly was in the ‘anti-dust mite chemical’ and if there had been any safety tests I was told that it must be safe as anything sold in the UK had been through safety tests. No more information was available in the shop.
When trying to decide between two items I was even told to buy the cheaper one if ‘you are thinking of your bank balance’ and the more expensive one ‘if you are thinking of your health’!
I have been fortunate to so far not have experienced circulatory problems, asthma, lung disease, or any of the other problems I was told could be reduced or eliminated by using these sofas and beds. I did not ask about any health benefits of any of the furniture – I asked to try out sitting / lying on the furniture for comfort, and about materials, price, guarantees and delivery times. I did not mention that I was a doctor in any of the conversations, apart from in the shops where I purchased furniture and the sales people then chatted to me about my job and when would be convenient delivery times etc. All the ‘health benefits’ I was told about were described by the sales people without me asking questions about them. These statements put a lot of pressure on customers and I suspect have no evidence base to them.
After choosing chairs and beds based on colour, size, and price, rather than unsubstantiated health claims, I wandered around some shoe shops. When the sales person saw me looking at the huge array of trainers and trying on a few she came over to help and immediately began advising me on the ‘health benefits’ of the different shoes, including explaining how many of the trainers are designed to make the wearer more toned, slimmer, and strengthen certain muscles. It’s difficult to see how wearing the trainers will make someone slimmer or more toned unless they do some exercise while wearing them (or any other shoes) or eat less!
It seems strange that such dramatic health claims (and unsubstantiated as far as I could tell) can be made about furniture and clothes, but the same claims for a medicine, or even a food product, would be subjected to far more rigorous analysis, including large randomized controlled trials. Have other readers experienced these sales pitches? Has anyone asked for or been shown any evidence to prove them? Is it time that these claims were backed up (or not) by scientific evidence?