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07/09/01 - Health section
How magnets can ward off disease and keep ageing at bay

Most people associate magnets with school physics lessons, but magnet therapy could soon be the biggest craze to hit alternative circles since acupuncture.

It's already taken America by storm where over five million Americans use the technique for common complaints ranging from asthma to insomnia. Devotees include actress Shirley MacLaine, Bill Clinton and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Converts in Britain believe the technique is an effective non-intrusive alternative to painkillers with no side-effects - which can help improve migraine attacks, eczema and chest infections. Some practitioners are even claiming it can promote anti-ageing.

Magnet therapy is a system based on the idea that our bodies form an electro-magnetic field that responds to the healing power of magnets.

This is because iron makes up about four per cent of our blood content and every ion - or atom - contained in our cells produces an electrical impulse. These three elements make up our bodies own electrical magnetic field.

This means when the north side of a magnet - which is negative - is placed on an unhealthy part of the body, it draws fresh oxygenated blood to the area of complaint - which is positive.

This creates a two-pronged result. As magnets are alkaline it counteracts any acidity in the body caused by disease. In addition, fresh blood helps to remove any acidity from the body which, in turn, accelerates healing.

Practitioners believe the technique is particularly successful in treating insomnia. Lilias Curtin who is one of a handful of magnet therapists in this country, claims lying on a magnet pillow can promote deep sleep and, in turn, anti-ageing.

'This is because when we sleep, our pineal gland located in our forehead, becomes active and produces the youth hormone melatonin - the hormone responsible for anti-ageing. This can change the texture of the skin giving a fresher, younger appearance,' she says.

In addition, magnets encourage blood - containing iron - to the skin which stimulates collagen - a structural protein present in the skin which is essential for skin elasticity.

But, says Lilias Curtin, this anti-ageing technique is not new. Cleopatra wore a magnet on her forehead in an attempt to keep herself young.

In fact, the ancient art of magnet therapy has been practised in Egypt and Macedonia since 30BC. It was rediscovered in 1969 by NASA who lined astronauts' suits with magnets to anchor them to the earth's magnetic field.

Clinical trials from America already show that magnets provide an effective pain relief. Studies show that seventy five per cent of post-polio patients who used magnets for pain reported a decrease in pain.

Dr Richard Lawson, a GP in North Somerset, carried out magnet research on eighty patients suffering from arthritis. More than half saw a marked improvement.

'The magnets proved to replace high doses of painkillers. This plausible therapy could save the NHS thousands of pounds because painkillers are one of the health service's biggest expenditures. It is a clean, one-off cost without side effects. It certainly deserves more research,' he says.

However, other health experts are sceptical.

Professor Peter Goadsby of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, says: 'there is no controlled evidence to suggest that magnets can benefit complaints such as tension or migraines. It's not acceptable to charge people money when the efficacy of the treatment is un established.'

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2004 Associated New Media

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