A couple of days ago I had a chat with a journalist that resulted in my being quoted – along with Dr Shaun Holt – in this story about purveyors of Kangen water. If you believe the hype, this stuff cures a wide range of ailments & leaves you bright-eyed & bushy-tailed. IF… but sadly, these days personal anecdote seems to count for more than that nasty stuff called evidence, and so many do believe the hype.
The Whanganui Chronicle quotes someone selling Kangen water machines (for $4,000A a pop!) as follows:
“I’d go through two 2.25 litres bottles of Coke every day. That was my normal diet.”
Then a cousin in Raetihi told her to try Kangen water and she was hooked straight away.
“I feel a lot more alert – it’s given me more of a zing within my body.”
Yes, well, as Mark Hanna (who blogs on Honest Universe) commented on Twitter,
If you drink five litres of Coke a day, then stop and drink water instead and feel better, it doesn't mean the water is magic. It's that you're not drinking five litres of Coke a day anymore.https://t.co/jkG0F9y6NA
— Mark Hanna (@HonestUniverse) May 10, 2018
The Chronicle comments that the manufacturers of these machines provide fliers that make various claims: that the water they produce has proven therapeutic benefits for “more than 150 diseases including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease”. (Seems to me that making therapeutic claims might be stretching the boundaries of the Medicines Act…) And they claim that the water has these effects because
it restore[s] the drinker’s body to a more alkaline state.
Now, the problem with that particular claim (based, ultimately, on misunderstanding &/or misinterpretationB of Otto Warburg’s work on tumour metabolism) is that your stomach operates at a low (very acidic) pH. Quaff a glass of alkaline water? It’ll likely be neutralised when it hits your stomach. In addition, your body’s lungs & kidneys maintain tissue pH within a very narrow range; excess hydrogen (H+) or hydroxyl (OH–) ions are excreted in urine, but the tissue pH remains pretty much constant. So those glasses of expensive H2O will keep you nicely hydrated (& feeling good), but they won’t be doing much else, & certainly not making changes to your body’s tissue pH, though there may be temporary changes in the urine.
Wikipedia has a good article on how these machines actually work. Basically, they are electrolysing tap water as it passes through them. However:
The effectiveness of the process is debatable because electrolysis requires significant amounts of time and power; hence, the amount of hydroxide that could be generated in a fast moving stream of water such as a running tap would be minimal at best.
They’re also highly unlikely to produce ‘hexagonal water’ (despite claims from head office, that one is chemical quackery), or significantly affect the oxygenation status of your tap water (another claim about the Kangen machines). Plus, as Ben Goldacre once commented (in a different context), you don’t have gills in your gut.
Honestly, there are so many resources out there that assess the claims for alkaline water – and find them wanting – anyone considering buying one of these things would find it easy to some due diligence first. (You could start with Skeptoid’s explanation, or follow some of the links I’ve provided.) Then, hopefully, you’ll put the $4K back in your bank account, and drink a nice glass of chilled tap water.
A I venture to suggest that once you’ve bought a machine, there’s a significant incentive to keep pushing the product regardless.
B One R.O.Young made a lot of money on the back of pushing that one.