Kangen Water: Change Your Water, Change Your Life

Sellers of new-age water treatment products charge outrageous prices for zero plausibility.

Filed under Consumer Ripoffs, Fads

Skeptoid #139
February 03, 2009
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Today we're going to take a scientific look at one of the latest multilevel marketing fads: healing water machines, devices costing thousands of dollars claiming to ionize or alkalize your tap water, and claiming a dazzling range of health and medical benefits. Sold under such names as Kangen, Jupiter Science, KYK, and literally hundreds of others, these machines do either nothing or almost nothing (beyond basic water filtration), and none of what they may actually do has any plausible beneficial purpose. They are built around the central notion that regular water is so harmful to the body that their price tags, as much as $6,000, are actually justified. They are essentially water filters with some additional electronics to perform electrolysis. They are sold with volumes of technical sounding babble that may impress a non-scientific layperson, but to any chemist or medical doctor, they are laughably meaningless (and in many cases, outright wrong).

Here's a really quick coverage of the basics of the real science. The pH scale goes from about 0 to 14. 7 is neutral pH. Lower numbers are acidic, and higher numbers are alkaline. All aqueous solutions contain some dissociated water molecules in the form of positive hydrogen ions (H+) and negative hydroxide ions (OH-). When there are more hydroxide ions, it's because the solution contains positively charged metal ions like sodium, calcium or magnesium for those hydroxide ions to bind to, thus making the solution alkaline. Conversely, when there are more positive hydrogen ions, there needs to be some other negatively charged ions, usually bicarbonate (HCO3-) and the solution is thus acidic. Pure water has neither such chemicals in it, and so it has neutral pH. To electrolyze or ionize water, you must add some chemicals of one type or the other. For a more complete discussion of this, I recommend a web page by Stephen Lower, a chemist from Simon Fraser University.

Make no mistake about it: Ionizing and alkalizing water machines are a textbook example of inventing an imaginary problem that needs to be solved with expensive pseudoscientific hardware. It should come as no surprise that the most expensive of these machines are usually sold through multilevel marketing: A one-two punch that first takes advantage of a layperson's lack of scientific expertise to interest them in the product, and then takes advantage of their lack of business or mathematical expertise to convince them that they're virtually guaranteed to become a millionaire through a pyramid model.

The company making the most noise right now is Kangen. They use the slogan "Change your water - change your life." Google that phrase; 49 million results currently. It's a brilliant slogan; everyone would like to change their life for the better, wouldn't it be great if all it took was changing your water? I glance over some of these URLs: MyMiracleWater.com, VeryHealthyWater.com, WaterMiracles.com, AlkalineWaterMiracle.info — people selling easy answers to imaginary problems.

Let's look at the claims these sellers make. The successful MLM companies generally dodge government regulators by making no illegal claims themselves; instead, they allow those claims to be made by their independent distributors: First charging them big dollars for the privilege, and then burdening them with the risk of needing to make untrue health claims in order to recoup their foolish investment. So I've looked over a lot of these independent web sites and come up with what they generally say are the reasons you need to buy their supposedly special water.

Ionized water molecules form into hexagonal rings, which allow the water to be better absorbed by your body.

Water molecules in liquid water move about freely, there is no way that a hexagonal arrangement could be formed or made stable. Stephen Lower is one of many chemists who have debunked this completely made-up and chemically implausible claim. If you're interested in the details, read his excellent web page "Water Cluster Quackery". Hexagonal arrangements of liquid molecules are not a characteristic of ionization or of alkalinity. Such hexagonal arrangements in water have never been observed or plausibly theorized, and thus there is no way that it could have ever been established that such water is better absorbed by your body — since it doesn't exist. The human body has never had a problem being hydrated by water, so this particular claim is a perfect example of a pseudoscientific solution to an imaginary problem.

Kangen water is ionized, which makes it alkaline.

Pure water actually cannot be electrolyzed and dissociated into ions to any appreciable degree, it's not electrically conductive enough. You need to have a significant amount of minerals and impurities in order for it to be electrolyzed, which is why Kangen and its competitors also take your money for packets of mineral salt additives that you need to add to your water to make your machine do anything. Do this, and your water will become chemically alkaline with a cargo of dissolved metallic ions in solution. Basically, your $6,000 Kangen machine, when used with the provided chemicals, is a way to accomplish the same thing as making a weak Clorox bleach solution. To chemists, the term "ionized water" is meaningless.

Alkaline water promotes healthy weight loss, and boosts the immune system.

Two scientific-sounding medical claims, both too vague to be testable. "Immune system boosting" is medically meaningless, which is something we'll delve into in greater depth in a future episode. Basically, you can't be healthier than healthy; and a healthy immune system is a delicate balance between attacking foreign bodies and attacking your own healthy tissue. "Boosting" it, if such were possible, would cause your own healthy tissue to be attacked. This is called an autoimmune diease, such as lupus. It's not something you want. Alkaline water has never been shown to have any such effect.

Alkaline water is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and slows the aging process.

We've discussed the whole phenomenon of antioxidants before too, in Skeptoid #86 about antioxidant fruit juices. Although oxidation does contribute to some age-related diseases, consuming antioxidants does not affect normal aging. Even if they did, you wouldn't get them from alkalized water: When water is alkalized, it contains hypochlorites, which are oxidizing agents. Basically, the opposite of what is claimed.

Drinking alkaline water reduces the acidity in your body and restores it to a healthy alkaline state. It is well known in the medical community that an overly acidic body is the root of many common diseases, such as obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood-pressure and more.

This is absolutely false. Your body's acidity is not, in any way, affected by the pH of what you eat or drink. Eating alkaline food stimulates production of acidic digestive enzymes, and eating acidic foods causes the stomach to produce fewer acids. Your body's primary mechanism for the control of pH is the exhalation of carbon dioxide, which governs the amount of carbonic acid in the blood. Nor has there ever been any plausible research that shows any connection between these diseases and body acidity, this also appears to be completely made up. This is a classic case of using simplistic terminology to sell a product to the scientifically illiterate.

Alkaline water detoxifies and cleanses your colon. Without it, mucoid plaque clogs your bowels and contributes to many diseases.

The dreaded mucoid plaque again! Mucoid plaque is an invention by the purveyors of colon cleansing products, it has never actually been observed in medical science. Since it doesn't exist, it's impossible to say whether it would be affected by an alkaline diet. Digestive enzymes neutralize the pH of whatever you eat by the time it gets to your bowels anyway, so it's hard to imagine what science might possibly support a claim such as this.

Kangen water is an anti-bacterial cleanser. Kills 99% of bacteria on contact. Spray it on your throat to prevent a cold.

$2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

Fascinating. They also promote Kangen water to aquarium owners because of its amazing power to support bacteria. The fact is that some bacteria are affected by pH, and some are not. Most thrive in a particular range, but relatively few bacteria are affected by the small 1 or 2 point difference between tap water and water that has been treated with Kangen mineral salt additives. It could be argued that sellers are simply saying whatever they think their target market wants to hear.

Acidic water, like that from your tap, is harmful.

The most common source of acidic water is the cleanest and most natural of all: normal rainwater, with a pH of about 5.6. Most tap water is within a point of 7, which is neutral, so your tap water is probably already more alkaline than clean rainwater. Are you still convinced that this is so dangerous that you need to drop two to six thousand dollars on a machine that any chemist or dietitian will tell you has no credible benefit?

There is one possible use for water if it could be made heavily alkaline, and that's to treat heartburn in the esophagus. But it wouldn't be anywhere near as effective as, for example, a single Tums tablet. However, water so treated would have to be so laden with salts that it would be virtually undrinkable. For more on this, see Skeptoid #128 for a discussion of treating gastric reflux.

Please, everyone: Before you invest money in a Kangen machine or any similar competitive machine, or in becoming a distributor for them, do two things. First, ask a chemist to review their scientific claims; and second, ask a doctor about the medical claims. Maybe you'll find that I'm wrong and the multilevel marketing people have discovered whole new branches of chemistry and medicine heretofore unknown to science. Or maybe you'll find that they're simply another spin-the-wheel-and-invent-a-new-age-pseudoscience trying to separate you from your money with fantastic technobabble and glamorous personal testimonials, and just maybe you'll save those thousands of dollars.

Follow me on Twitter @BrianDunning.

Brian Dunning

© 2009 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Bender, D.A. "The Crystal Truth about Ionized Water." Health Watch. 1 Apr. 2005, Newsletter 57: 8.

Hanaoka, K. "Antioxidant effects of reduced water produced by electrolysis of sodium chloride solutions." Journal of Applied Electrochemistry. 21 Aug. 2001, 31: 1307–1313.

Hiraoka, A., Takemoto, M., Suzuki, S., Shinohara, A., Chiba, M., Shirao, M., Yoshimura, Y. "Studies on the Properties and Real Existence of Aqueous Solution Systems that are Assumed to have Antioxidant Activities by the Action of "Active Hydrogen"." Journal of Health Science. 1 Jan. 2004, Volume 50, Number 5: 456-465.

Lower, Stephen. "'Ionized' and Alkaline Water." Water Pseudoscience and Quackery. AquaScams, 11 May 2009. Web. 14 Jan. 2010. <http://www.chem1.com/CQ/ionbunk.html>

Melton, Lisa. "The antioxidant myth: a medical fairy tale." New Scientist. 5 Aug. 2006, Issue Number 2563: 40-43.

Novella, S. "Have You Had Your Antioxidants Today?" The Science of Medicine. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <http://www.csicop.org/si/show/have_you_had_your_antioxidants_today>

Uthman, E. "Mucoid Plaque." Quackwatch. Stephen Barrett, MD, 7 Jan. 1998. Web. 3 Feb. 2009. <http://www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/QA/mucoidplaque.html>

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "Kangen Water: Change Your Water, Change Your Life." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 3 Feb 2009. Web. 18 Apr 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4139>

Discuss!

10 most recent comments | Show all 382 comments

For me go reviews, research and testimonials, certificates and how many years in the industry that is the most important to me.Not how much ? the value and the health benefits in the most important.

Heidi Gapan, Canada
March 01, 2014 8:40am

The Kengan machine doesn't use any chemicals.

If you test the water output (I have a BS in bio/chem) it is clearly the pH promised.

Not sure how much is real and how much is psychosomatic, but after using the water for a short period of time it seems to cure a variety of problems (even when the subject, e.g. a teenage son is reluctant and not wanting to drink the water).

It is expensive and I HATE MLM... but it seems to have benefits at least anecdotally.

James, Corpus Christi
March 01, 2014 2:24pm

James - Your assertion that chemicals are not used is bizarre; as a member of their MLM you should probably know that. Here is their web page for buying refill packs: http://www.enagic.com/shop/en/supplies/electrolysis-enhancer.html

Brian Dunning, Laguna Niguel, CA
March 01, 2014 3:18pm

Brian, Drinking water does not use the solution (which is salt water....guess salt is a chemical.. lol ). What you are referring to is used only to make the 2.5 Acidic Water. You Don't even have to use it and the Machine still works. So It does not use the salt solution to make the Drinking Waters or the beauty water only the 2.5. I know it sounds crazy, but it works. And Amazingly 6500 Asian Doctors back this Machine including Dr. Shinya who help create the colonoscopy camera.... just sayin.

Mary, Colorado Springs, CO
March 07, 2014 1:04pm

If you really believe Alkaline water can make you healthier (which I don't - I have metastatic prostate cancer so I'm regularly introduced to quack remedies), why not just dissolve some sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in your drinking water - it's really cheap!

Steve, Sydney, Australia
March 15, 2014 11:13pm

I understand with all of the health fads that get thrown out there it's important to be skeptical when the next big thing comes along. This is just smart consumerism.

I'm here to vouch for the validity of Kangen water. I first started drinking it when my chiropractor started giving me gallons to take home and the first thing I noticed was my allergies went away. I used to take every prescribed and over the counter medication under the sun and got sinus infections every time the seasons change (in Oklahoma this can be a weekly occurance). I drank the water from my chiropractor for a year, no allergy symptoms, my skin cleared up, and my depression and anxiety symptoms became a lot more manageable.

I finally decided to buy the machine and in a year it's paid for itself just in medications and cleaning supplies I no longer have to buy. Strong water is the best stain remover there is. It gets out blood and grease stains like magic.

The final proof that there is something to ionized water was when a coworker started showing preeclaptic symptoms about 6 months into her pregnancy. The doctors were threatening her with hospital bed rest. I started bringing her 9.5 water every day and within a week her swelling had reduced, her blood pressure went way down, and the protien buildup in her urine decreased. She stayed on the water throughout her pregnancy and managed to not only stay off of bed rest but had minimal symptoms and worked up until 4 days before her delivery date.

Shannon, Tulsa
March 26, 2014 8:19am

There's wayyyyy more to this water than the Alkalinity. Anyone who wants the information can easily find it because we have the internet. But it's way more convenient and a lot more fun to use the internet to speak out of your ass and turn people away from something they could genuinely benefit from. The water works. Anyone who says it doesn't either A.) has never tried it, B.) has tried it but didn't do it properly, C.) doesn't understand the science, or D.) is being paid to steer people away from it.

Zooks, Anaheim, CA
March 31, 2014 11:32am

That's right, "Zooks", anyone who's not a customer is a paid disinformation agent. You have not come to the right place if you hope to be taken seriously with logic such as that.

Brian Dunning, Laguna Niguel, CA
March 31, 2014 11:38am

Brian, i congratulate you on your ability to spin. I'm sure you have a particular interest in misleading many with your "talent".

As you state.... "Nor has there ever been any plausible research that shows any connection between these diseases and body acidity".

Since you inserted "plausible research" what do YOU consider plausible.

There has been a considerable amount of research concerning acid to alkaline balance within the body and the results have shown that an underlying metabolic acidity (low pH) is a common denominator and contributing factor to many degenerative and autoimmune diseases.

You also state ...."Your body's acidity is not, in any way, affected by the pH of what you eat or drink."

"pH" being the focus word here. Remove PH and insert "alkaline mineral compounds"

Research proves.... "Your body's acidity is affected by the alkaline mineral compounds of what you eat or drink." ......

The minerals in what a person eats or drinks DOES aid the body in maintaining an alkaline balance.

I could continue but i don't have the time to waste on individuals in your class.

What's your motto.... long Live Big Pharma? Considering you live in Pharmaceutical Land Orange County

Rawhide, Los Angeles
April 08, 2014 10:43am

Have you seen the French version of the Kangen Machine?

Beaux Eau:
Vous êtes ce que vous buvez!

Daniel, Eastern Tennessee
April 08, 2014 10:58pm

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