Healbe offers more bunk "science" to back up miracle claims. It's time for Indiegogo to stop this

By James Robinson , written on April 1, 2014

From The News Desk

Four weeks and almost $900,000 into its "bullshit" Indiegogo campaign, Moscow-based Healbe has finally made good on one of its promises and released a new set of product FAQs.

One problem: the new FAQs simply add to the number of questions around the company's miracle calorie counting wristband, rather than answering any. Promised patent information and internal company research is completely skipped over, and instead the company doubles down on some of its already debunked science, walks back on others and provides a garbled, confusing company history that now centers around - hold your breath - a Russian science fiction author.

At this point its unclear even whether Healbe believes its own claims or is just playing some grand million dollar prank on its customers, and the media. A practical joke in which Indiegogo is unforgivably, almost criminally complicit.

As with all the company's previous claims, Pando asked doctors for their comments on the new FAQs.

On how the GoBe device non-invasively measures glucose, the company doubles down with longer words on its old, disputed explanation. “After you eat, insulin triggers cells to absorb glucose and release water,” the material says. Using an impedance sensor GoBe "uses this information about your cells’ changing glucose concentrations to calculate calorie intake.”

“The body doesn’t work that way,” says Medici Technologies’ Ries Robinson. “Impedance technology is only used to measure body water and body composition and even then it doesn’t work that well.” Las Vegas-based Dr. Zubin Damania agreed: “This is far fetched. Many things - like stress and exercise - affect glucose flux beyond intake of food,” he said.

As to how the device then turns this miracle glucose reading into information on automatic calorie consumption, Healbe repeats its prior claim that the different parts of the equation are all figured out by looking at glucose: carbohydrates are converted into glucose, which displaces liquids in cells, fat slows down the absorption of glucose and the company “is still working” on the best way to estimate protein consumption.

“This is just crazy. You can’t do this,” Robinson says. “It would be difficult even if you had the exact same person, eating the exact same amounts of foods in exactly the same amount of time.”

"What cells are the measuring?" Damania says. "Subcutaneous fat cells? Muscle? Skin cells? All use and metabolize glucose differently."

The company had long teased that it would release the results of internal research into how it came about a device that experts we've spoken to say would defy the rules of science if it existed and worked. These results remain a mystery. The company has said the test were as good as done, but now, according to the FAQs, they’re still in process.  “We will continue to conduct internal tests of the product over the next 2 months,” they write, confirming that they will still be working out if the GoBe works long after they’ve maybe taken in $1 million from Indiegogo’s audience. External testing is planned for “May-June.” With Healbe claiming to be shipping in June, the shipping date is now looking as fictional as GoBe’s underlying science.

PandoDaily has been unable to locate any patent associated with Healbe for its GoBe technology in spite of company claims that these exist. CEO Artem Shipitsyn had commented on Indiegogo that it would reveal some of this information in these new FAQs, but none such information was revealed.

Also in the new FAQs, Healbe has walked back its estimation of the margin of error for Healbe from 8-12% to 15-20%. Of a standard 2,000 calorie diet, Healbe is essentially saying that it could tell a user they've consumed somewhere between 1,600 and 2,400 calories. Which isn’t impressive. It also admits that there’s no way to account for different metabolisms. “Two people eating exactly the same type of food might actually process different amounts of calories from their meals,” it acknowledges, uselessly.

Filling in the back story of how Healbe came upon its miracle GoBe technology without anyone else in the medical community hearing about it, the company expllains that in 1999, a St. Petersburg-based company called Algorithm tried to work out how to non-invasively measure glucose, using the methodology of "TRIZ" (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) pioneered by a Russian inventor and science fiction author Genrich Altshuller. Not only is the GoBe technology unbelievable to any medical expert not affiliated with Healbe, but Healbe says that that technology was finished as long ago as 2003 and that since then Algorithm had conducted more than 500 internal tests on it. None of those results has been made public. Healbe bought the technology in 2012 and has since worked to adapt it into an automatic calorie reader.

And so the Healbe story lurches from scam to farce. Healbe claim to be two months away from being able to ship a product that it now admits is still undergoing testing and the accuracy of which can't be guarantee.  It teases with patents and data, but again today has come out with more smoke, digging down deeper into its own nonsensical, bizarre, surreal hole.

And still, thanks to Indiegogo's insistence that there's no reason to be concerned about GoBe, the company is two weeks away from walking away with $1 million of supporters' money. As one concerned backer wrote on GoBe's campaign page...

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 5.40.46 PM

Enough is enough. Indiegogo needs to demand that Healbe release its test results, and details of its claimed patents. Or it needs to put a stop to this charade, now.

Update: Healbe just uploaded this video to YouTube, claiming to show the GoBe in action. (Spoiler: It doesn't.)

See here  for the latest updates on this story.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]