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Home » 2016 » July » 26 » Magnetic controversy
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Magnetic controversy

Magnetic controversy

The possible hazardous side effects of magnetotherapy which is similar to any microwave irradiation do not, however, deter the faithful followers. For them this is no fake science or miracle cure, but an ancient system of medicine, rediscovered.

The magnetic treatment of various human diseases, said to have been mentioned in the Atharva Veda, but forgotten for centuries till it was recently revived by homoeopaths in the United States, the Soviet Union and Japan, has sparked off a controversy in New Delhi.

Homoepath Dr. H. L. Bansal who runs a free magnetotherapy clinic says magnets act on the iron in the blood, thus benefiting the human metabolism. The pervading influence of the magnetic field on the circulation, the nerves and the muscles cures diseases ranging from apendicitis and asthma to sprains and sleeplessness.

But a Delhi University zoologist, Dr. K. S. Balasubramaniam cautions that magnetic treatment harms brain cells, affects the functioning of the vital pituitary gland and causes sterility. His research on the effect of an electromagnetic field on the brains of rats and birds revealed that a magnetic field of 10 gauss caused sperm cells in the testes to decay within two weeks of exposure. The end result was that no sperm cells were formed.

The decay, he says, was caused by the magnetic effect on the higher centres of the brain which control the master gland, the pituitary. He found this by estimating the brain hormones bio-chemically, and feels, that other hormones too were likely to be similarly affected.

The possible hazardous side effects of magnetotherapy which is similar to any microwave irradiation do not, however, deter the faithful followers. For them this is no fake science or miracle cure, but an ancient system of medicine, rediscovered.

The Bansal clinic has a range of magnets in different shapes and sizes and of varying strengths which are measured by the weights of iron they attract. The most commonly used magnet, shaped like a small solid ball sliced in half, lifts a 10-kg. iron weight.

A patient with a skin infection like eczema on his legs is made to sit for about 10 minutes with a foot on each half of a pair of magnets, thus becoming part of the magnetic field. Initially he might feel a slight nausea but usually overt side effects are minimal. About 24 hours is the gap between each application to maintain a steady rhythm. Magnetotherapy is said to be unaffected by any allopathic, ayurvedic or homoeopathic medicines that may be taken concurrently.

Special magnetized health bands and magnetized water are also recommended. The total magnetic treatment is believed to ionize the blood, regulate the autonomic system, produce heat which reduces swellings and pains, and control the secretion of hormones. For the merely old or tired, magnetotherapy promises renewed youth, lustre and vigour.

But the scientific mind of Dr. Balasubramaniam questions: just how does all this happen. Magnetic treatment would ionize the blood and make it flow more freely, but tampering with the iron content of the blood could produce structural changes which would affect the hormones that reached the circulatory system.

Controlling certain growths such as tumours or reducing swellings, he feels, is possible, but this seemed to be working against the biological system and its possible harmful side effects had not been investigated. He also queries how magnetized water works to produce the beneficial effects that therapists claim.

Basic to magnetotherapy is the supposed differential action of the north and south poles. Dr. Bansal says the north pole kills germs and stops the activities of bacteria. Hence it is applied to boils, skin rashes, eczema, glands etc. The south pole generates heat and provides energy. It gives strength and warmth and removes pain and swelling. For localized treatment only one magnet, as the case indicates, is used, Dr. Bansal says. Dr. Balasubramaniam, however, feels that the differential action of the north and south poles is not scientifically substantiated.

Dr. Bansal in turn takes up his zoologist questioner by quoting foreign experiments in biomagnetism which he claims have proved conclusively that no harmful effects have been observed in animals and men exposed to intense magnetic fields for a duration of 15 minutes. The rats and birds in Dr. Balsubramaniam's experiments must have been exposed to an overdose, he says.

Dr. Balasubramaniam himself admits that the intensity which might harm a small animal need not adversely affect a human being whose brain size is proportionately larger. The same result is also not obtained if the magnet is applied to the organ directly and not to the brain. The brain it seems was particularly vulnerable but the primary cells of the organ were not affected, so the damage could be temporary. However, as the magnetic treatment does affect the hormonal balance this would disturb the genetic constitution of the progeny. 

Magnetotherapy is easy, simple, safe and quick; the permanent magnets used are economical. Miracles are sometimes worked through magnetic treatment, but the system itself is no miracle, the Bansal clinic claims. The zoologist clarifies that he is not contradicting the therapists but only drawing attention to the possible hazards of a treatment which he feels has not been thoroughly investigated. 

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