The Detox Foot Pad Scam
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Various adhesive pads and patches are claimed to detoxify the body when applied to the feet. The best known is the Kinoki Detox Foot Pad, which is claimed to remove toxins, restore "balance" within the body, and boost energy. Various other products are claimed to strengthen the immune system, reduce stress, improve circulation, improve sleep, enhance mental focus, relieve headaches and arthritis pain. The alleged explanation for their working include reflexology, unblocking of lymphatic passages, and negative ions that release far infrared rays. All such products should be regarded as fakes, and the proposed mechanisms should be regarded as nonsensical.
Users are instructed to apply the products to the soles of the feet and leave them on overnight. In the morning, they claim, the pads will absorb toxins and turn muddy brown or black.
"Detox" product marketers have done no studies that identify what they claim to remove, measure its level in the body, and see whether such substances accumulate in the pads and have their level reduced in the body. It is unlikely they will ever try, because the basic idea that toxins will be excreted through the skin clashes with what is known about human anatomy and physiology. Real detoxification of foreign substances takes place in the liver, which modifies their chemical structure so they can be excreted by the kidneys which filter them from the blood into the urine. Sweat glands in the feet can excrete water and some dissolved substances. However, its minor role in ridding the body of unwanted substances is not changed by applying foot pads.
In April 2008. ABC's "20/20" investigated Kinoki ad Avon pads and reported:
- When used overnight, the pads darkened, but dropping distilled water on the pads produced the same dark color.
- Laboratory analysis of pads used by eight volunteers showed no significant evidence of heavy metals or commonly used solvents.
- When asked for tests that would show that their products really work the companies offered no valid scientific studies.
A few months later, a radio reporter in California conducted a similar investigation. First she had her husband wear pads overnight and then too them to a laboratory for testing. The lab found that the heavy metal content of the used pads were the same as that of an unused pad, which meant that the pads don't "suck out any toxins." Then she held an unused pad over a pot of boiling water. The steam caused the pad to turn black, indicating that the dark color that results from wearing a Kinoki pad is caused by a chemical in the pad that reacts to moisture .
The Better Business Bureau has given the Kinoki Detox Foot Pads Company an "unsatisfactory" rating .
Detox foot baths should also be regarded as fakes .
In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission charged Yehuda (“Juda”) Levin, Baruch Levin, and their company (Xacta 3000 Inc.) with deceptive advertising. According to the complaint, the defendants claimed that applying Kinoki Foot Pads to the soles of the feet at night would remove heavy metals, metabolic wastes, toxins, parasites, chemicals, and cellulite from their bodies. The ads also claimed that use of the foot pads could treat depression, fatigue, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system . The case was settled with a stipulated agreement under which Yehuda Levin and the company were barred from promoting or selling any dietary supplement, food, drug, or medical device, and from helping others do the same. The defendants agreed to a judgment of $14.5 million, which represented the total revenues from the sale of the pads. However, based on their inability to pay, the entire judgment was suspended but will become due if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition .
- Stossel J. Ridding yourself of toxins or money? Company says Kinoki Foot Pads 'capture toxins from your body.' ABC News, April 11, 2008.
- Varney S. Japanese foot pad is latest health fad. KQED, Aug 18, 2008.
- Kinoki Detox Foot Pads. BBB reliability report, Aug 23, 2008.
- Barrett S. The Aquadetox scam. Device Watch, Dec 28, 2004.
- FTC charges marketers of Kinoki Foot Pads with deceptive advertising; seeks funds for consumer redress. FTC news release, Jan 28, 2009.
- At FTC's request, judge Imposes ban on marketers of "detox" foot pads: Aadvertising claimed "ancient Japanese secret" could treat medical conditions. FTC news release, Nov 4, 2010.
This article was revised on November 12, 2010.