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Kinoki Foot Pads- Ancient Japanese Secret or Marketing Scam?

Mary Coleman

November 10, 2008

 

Introduction:

Kinoki Foot Pads came onto the market in hopes of capitalizing on the “detox diet” craze driven by recent media and celebrity endorsement.  Why put yourself through the process of forgoing all solid foods for weeks, or sweat during 3-hour heated yoga sessions when you can “detox while you sleep” by slapping a pair of pads to the soles of your feet?  Subjected to a barrage of television ads touting “special TV offers” as well as internet and magazine advertisements, tucked neatly in women’s health-concerned publications such as “Self,” dieters and health consumers are naturally curious and rightly skeptical of the “traditional Japanese formula” utilized by Kinoki.  A Google search for  “Kinoki Foot Pads” yields about 57,700 website responses, mostly testimonials flanked by accusatory reviews of the product, as well as an array of advertisements and opportunities to “click here” to buy your very own supply. Consumer-protection efforts and editorials have done much to discredit the product in recent years, the FDA even issued a warning, revised September of 2008, against similar “detoxifying” products claiming to release toxins through the soles of the feet (http://www.fda.gov/ora/fiars/ora_import_ia6641.html). 

 

So do the foot pads actually provide any health benefits?  Are they based on reliable mechanisms or are they all scam?  Read on to find out.

 

 

What do Kinoki Foot Pads claim to do?

Putting aside multiple red-flags that signal a scam product (flashing BUY NOW links, paid testimonials, and “secret” ingredients) and investigating the claims made on Kinoki’s website, the foot pads are said to combine several therapeutic processes to prevent “toxic overload,” “assist in natural cleansing” and “promote vibrant health and wellness.” (https://www.buykinoki.com/faq.asp).  If this doesn’t sound specific or convincing, one can read on to the “detox information” section of the site, which includes an extended report on detoxification written by biochemist Dr. Joseph Friedman on the benefits of detox, the affects of heavy metals on the body, and the components of reflexology (including elimination of toxins via sweat from the soles of the feet).  According to Friedman, detoxification will cleanse the digestive tract, clear excess mucous and congestion from the body, purify the blood and kidneys, enhance mental clarity, reduce stomach size to “normal,” and strengthen the immune system (https://www.buykinoki.com/detox-report.asp). It is worthy of note that nowhere in the detoxification article on the official Kinoki website does Friedman mention the Kinoki product specifically.

 

The television advertisements for the product claim the product it is able to “naturally” draw harmful toxins out of the body.  Signs one might be suffering from a toxic overload include “insomnia, fatigue, headaches, depression and back aches.”  In addition to reversing these common ailments, the product is said to even promote weight loss and to provide the consumer with more energy after every use (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IB9ZcZRrMgc).  Yellow arrows point to the substances removed after a night’s sleep claiming their composition of parasites, metabolic wastes and heavy metals.

 

How does Kinoki claim to do it?

If before and after pictures featuring the clean, unused pads compared to brown, gooey used pads aren’t proof enough of the toxic substances removed overnight, investigating the active ingredients and processes behind Kinoki detox reveals several claimed wellness-enhancing mechanisms.  Kinoki claims to provide the combined benefits of the ancient field of reflexology, the detoxification power of the sweat glands of the foot, and the ionizing ability of the mineral Tourmaline (an ingredient in the pads).

 

 

 

 

Reflexology: 

Reflexology is considered a “complimentary” healing practice based on the principle that “the feet represent a map of the whole body, so that by working manually on the feet, distal areas of the body can be treated” (Tiran, 2004).  Reflexology had gained popularity recently as an alternative therapy and is practiced widely in Europe.  Reflexologists use a general foot/body map to essentially massage the foot and elicit a calming effect, relieve pain, and enhance wellbeing.  The Association of Reflexologists based in Somerset, England explains “A Reflexologist uses hands only to apply pressure to the feet…Sensitive, trained hands can detect tiny deposits and imbalances in the feet, and by working on these points the Reflexologist can release blockages and restore the free flow of energy to the whole body” (http://www.aor.org.uk/index.php?page=what-is-reflexology). 

Exploring the physiological basis of reflexology, researchers Denise Tiran and Harry Chummun credit the placebo effect and the impact of therapeutic touch as partial contributors to success.  Additionally, nerve impulse theory suggests that action potentials generated by the pressure applied to the foot travel via sensory nerves to the spinal cord where they are integrated with motor neurons sending signals to the body’s muscles.  In this way, reflexology affects muscles for the short term in the same way as a knee jerk reflex.  Without mentioning detoxification potentials, the Tiran article suggests “some reflexologists subscribe to the theory of gravitational effects on the feet, in which accumulation of serum deposits of calcium and uric acid is thought to occur subdermally in the foot zones relation to the affected organs”  (Tiran, 2004). 

Reflexology as a diagnostic tool is also of interest in the scientific community.  The concept is based in assessment of the soles feet, on which each part of the body is represented.  Tenderness and hard lumps indicate different conditions based on their placement on the foot.  In a 2004 blinded study, a team of UK researchers investigated the accuracy of 3 trained reflexologists in diagnosing 18 patients.  Participants were chosen based on previous diagnosis of 1 or more of 6 specified conditions and were excluded based on other major medical conditions.  The conditions of each patient were self-reported prior to consultation with the reflexologist.  Each participant was examined separately by 2 reflexologists who were not allowed to speak with the participants, see any part of their body besides the feet, or provide any treatment in addition to diagnosis.  The reflexologists then rated the probability of each of the 6 diagnoses on a scale of 7 categories (definitely not, probably not, probably not, possibly not, don’t know, possible, probable, and definite).  In general, the most common ratings were “probably not” and “possible.”  When the results were analyzed, using the strictest definition of a “correct answer” (only definite or definitely not) the overall accuracy was 12%.  Adding responses “probable” or “probably not,” accuracy was calculated at 34%.  The results of the study concluded that reflexology charts cannot be used as medical diagnosis, based on the high rate of false positives and false negatives  (White, 2000).

 

How is Reflexology utilized in Kinoki Foot Pads?

Kinoki claims that its foot pads will provide the same types of benefits as “ancient Japanese reflexology,” however they clearly lack some of the basic elements of the practice.  The Kinoki website claims “the best place to eliminate toxins by sweat is through the soles of the feet, since they have the most acupuncture points… In fact, the foot is not unlike a ‘body map’ as it is connected to all other organs of the body” (https://www.buykinoki.com/detox-report.asp).  This suggests that because every part of the body is represented on the feet, toxins can be removed from all parts via the detox foot pads.  Nowhere in the descriptions of reflexology practice is toxin elimination referenced.  Additionally, the product lacks the hand-to-foot contact specified by the Association of Reflexologists as vital to the therapeutic nature of the practice (http://www.aor.org.uk/index.php?page=what-is-reflexology). 

 

Detoxification: 

Everyone has seen the ads urging consumers to reclaim their health by flushing their system, and ridding the body of toxins accumulated over time due to lifelong exposure to harsh environments.  Quick-fix cleanse diets are marketed as an opportunity to start the body over fresh, lose weight, and enhance wellness.  While promoters of such diets insist accumulation of toxins in the body is harmful and detoxification is health-conscious, many professionals warn of the dangers of such processes.  Michelle May M.D., author of Am I Hungry?  What to do when diets don’t work, explains that when you “detox” “You will lose weight, but it is the not the unhealthy fat you want to lose but precious body protein and fluids” (http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/demystifying-detox-diets).  According to Peter Pressman, MD at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, “the body already has multiple systems in place, including liver, kidneys, and the gastrointestinal tract, that do a perfectly good job of eliminating toxins from the body within hours of consumption” (http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/detox-diets-purging-myths).  These claims, found mostly via webmd, a source intended to reach the health-curious layman.  While flanked by advertisements with links to purchase detoxification products, they convey an informed and objective tone in comparison to the Kinoki advertisements. 

 

Tourmaline: 

Tourmaline is a mineral, which has been found to aid in adsorption of heavy metals from aqueous solutions (Kan, 2006).  As an ingredient in Kinoki foot pads, the mineral is said to generate negative ions to which harmful heavy metals in the body such as Antimony, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper and Lead attach and are drawn out of the body. 

 

In a recent scientific experiment, Kan Jiang and colleagues tested the effectiveness of Tourmaline as an adsorptive agent in an aqueous solution.  They hypothesized that based on the structure of the mineral (many available cation and anion sites), Tourmaline would “possess the ability to adsorb heavy metals from aqueous solution” (Kan, 2006).  Metals to be tested were copper, lead, zinc and cadmium.  To test the hypothesis, researchers combined crushed 100 mg Tourmaline, 50ml of metal solution and adjusted to a pH of 6.0 by HCl.  The time required for reaching equilibrium for all meal ions was about 60 mins.  The metal ions adsorbed were calculated using a mass balance equation.  The maximum metal uptake of tourmaline at 100 mg/L was 43.4 for Copper, 49.4 for Lead, 28.1 for Zinc, and 23.3 for Cadmium.  The researchers concluded that Tourmaline is “an effective adsorbent and can be successfully used as an adsorbing agent for the removal of heavy ions from aqueous solution” (Kan, 2004).  Potential uses for the findings centered on industry applications. “Electroplating, metal finishing, textile, storage batteries, mining, and ceramic and glass” enterprises were considered benefactors of the research, personal health or detoxification were not mentioned.

 

What do consumer-trials say?

Does the Tourmaline present in Kinoki foot pads actually extract heavy metals from the body through the soles of the feet?  Does use of the pads relieve headaches and contribute to wellbeing in the ways that reflexology has been found to do?  Numerous journalists have taken it upon themselves to conduct trials of their own, publishing the results in the news to inform consumers. 

 

A recent trial done by Sarah Varney of NPR found the pads to be ineffective at toxin removal.  After analysis at Curtis and Thompkins lab in Berkeley, lab manager John Goyette found no significant difference in composition between a used and unused pad. Varney attributes the dark color of the pads to a color-changing ingredient that responds to heat.  After holding the pad over a pot of steaming water, she and other journalists watched the color change before their eyes (http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=93710963&m=93710939).

Chris Woolston of the Los Angeles Times conducted a similar experiment. Chris attributes the strong smell of the pads after use to the bamboo vinegar ingredient printed on the box.  Woolston also noted the pads reacted in the exact same way to a few drops of saline solution as they had to a night on the feet.  Similar results were obtained after a few minutes near a warm fireplace.  Woolston sites Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, professor of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center, “There’s simply no way that pads applied to the skin can suck out enough toxins to improve health” (http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-skeptic22-2008sep22,0,2825052.story). 

 

Paige West of MSNBC’s “does it work” column also attempted an at-home-experiment with Kinoki.  West was discouraged with the product when, after several nights of use, the pads did not seem to be getting any lighter as promised on the commercials.  Instead, West noticed “the only pattern I saw was related to how long I’d slept- longer equaled blacker” (http://doesitwork.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/06/19/1156772.aspx).  West, like Sarah Varney decided to put the pads to the boiling water test.  The results were similar, “within about 10 seconds, that familiar blackness and smoky odor became obvious.”  West also quotes Dr. Devra Davis of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh, “while it’s not unheard of for substances to get into our bodies via the skin, such as the nicotine patch or estrogen creams… [she] doesn’t know of any therapy that actually pulls substances out of the body through the skin.”

 

Conclusion:

While the mechanisms cited by Kinoki have some merit, an overwhelming majority of information points to the ineffectiveness of the foot pad as a detoxification and wellness enhancing product.  Reflexology as a therapeutic practice necessitates the actual massaging of the foot by a trained professional, and as such the application of a foot pad while sleeping is not likely to elicit the same results.  Additionally, the ingredient Tourmaline is a mineral that has been proven to adsorb heavy metals.  However, it is unlikely that the amount contained in the pads is strong enough, or even physically capable of removing such metals from the body through the skin.  Based on the trials preformed by accredited journalists in the interest of consumer protection, and the advice of several health professionals, the marketers of Kinoki foot pads are looking to make a profit off of a product with no real therapeutic benefit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Kan, J., Tie-heng, S., Li-na, S., Hai-bo, L.  (2006).  Adsorption characteristics of copper,

lead, zinc and cadmium ions by tourmaline.  Journal of Environmental Sciences, 18(6), 1221-1225.

 

Tiran, D., Chummun, H. (2004).  The physiological basis of reflexology and its use as a

potential diagnostic tool.  Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 11, 58-64.

 

White, A.R., Williamson, J., Hart, A., Ernst, E.  (2000).  A blinded investigation into the

accuracy of reflexology charts.  Complimentary Therapies in Medicine, 8(3), 166-172.

 

 

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