How the FDA Changed the Gravity Blanket Story
It is a tempting offer for anyone suffering from insomnia, anxiety, or similar conditions: buy a blanket and be free from your troubles.
If only it was that easy.
There was never any long-term, solid evidence of the benefits of weighted blankets, but they have existed for a while, thanks to the marketing gurus promoting the wellness product as a miracle cure for severe medical conditions like posttraumatic stress disorder and depression. The most popular among them was Gravity, which even managed to raise $3 million online promoting the blanket as a treatment for several health conditions.
The campaign went bust, and the bold claims disappeared when it was found that the company behind Gravity not only violated the policy of the crowdfunding site Kickstarter but also went against the FDA guidelines.
Instead of claiming to be a cure, Gravity now markets itself as a wellness product that may or may not have medical benefits.
What is the Gravity blanket?
Weighted blankets have been around for quite some time, and several people have also claimed to have benefitted from them. Basically, these blankets use a kind of cozy pressure to mimic the feeling of being hugged. This has a placebo effect on conditions like anxiety and insomnia, among others. The weight of the blanket is 10 percent of the weight of the user. Weighted blankets are custom-made, and are several times more expensive than ordinary blankets.
Gravity blanket was touted as a “premium-grade, therapeutic weighted blanket” that could treat mental and emotional illnesses. The biggest sign of the campaign’s success was the number of people who donated to the campaign: more than 15,000.
Gravity created quite a stir with its big promises. It played on the psychology of people suffering from mental and emotional conditions and claimed to be an alternative to medical treatment. It went on to state that weighted blankets are used by hospitals and other healthcare facilities to treat patients suffering from anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and attention deficit disorders, and that the science behind Gravity blanket could treat disorders of this kind without the need of a qualified doctor or healthcare expert.
Who wouldn’t want to be free from anxiety, depression, OCD, and insomnia without the huge medical bills? People trusted a blanket to be the cure for their misery.
What went wrong?
The company was charged both by Kickstarter and the FDA with violation of policy and guidelines. Although the FDA does not regulate wellness products like weighted blankets, there is a clear guideline that states that these products can be marketed as ‘supporting people with certain conditions’ but not ‘as a treatment or cure.’
Gravity was also found to violate Kickstarter’s rules. The site forbids campaigns for “any item claiming to cure, treat, or prevent illness or condition.”
Kickstarter has confirmed that it asked Gravity to change the language used to promote the blanket since it could mislead consumers. Gravity first modified its claims, and then completely removed them, without any explanation.
The science behind Gravity
Even though weighted blankets have existed for some years, there wasn’t much hype around them until Gravity’s bold claims. No matter what language Gravity uses to market the product, evidence to support the science behind it is almost nonexistent.
Senior doctors and researchers say that deep touch pressure stimulation- the technology used by Gravity blanket- has been used for people with autism and dementia to calm the nerves and promote rest. But Gravity went all out with claims to treat and cure psychiatric conditions.
Studies have found that weighted blankets alone aren’t capable of minimizing symptoms of mental and emotional ailments. They could support a healthy lifestyle, but evidence for even that is scarce.
Since insomnia, anxiety, and other psychiatric ailments usually have a deeper cause and accompanying lifestyle disorders, treating the symptoms instead of the root isn’t going to show positive results. Researchers said it wasn’t clear whom the blanket was targeted at.
Gravity hasn’t responded to any of the comments, even though it intended to start shipping from October 2017.
Weighted blankets are comfortable and provide a coziness that helps relieve day-to-day stress. However, you don’t need to spend $300 for a blanket that makes you feel hugged. Weighted blankets are available at a lot of stores at much lower prices. If you want to try it out to see what the hype is all about, feel free to go ahead. But remember that no miracle cure for any disease has yet been discovered. Use common sense before trusting a blanket to make doctors go out of business.