Kangen Water: Change Your Water, Change Your Life

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

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Consumer Ripoffs, Fads

Skeptoid #139
February 3, 2009
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe
 

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.

Tip Skeptoid $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.

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. 24 Oct 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4139>

Discuss!

10 most recent comments | Show all 394 comments

This is priceless. Products that work and are massively successful - like Kangen (Alkaline) Water are always big targets for small minds.

Folks, it's big business to be a big mouth (i.e. Support Skeptoid). The real fools aren't investing in their health, they're are those supporting the 'Skeptoid's' habit. Why don't you post what your take is on a monthly basis? - And we'll understand who the real fools are. lol

Scotchman, Illinois
May 20, 2014 7:50pm

Brian, I would love for you to address some of the statements made by the sensible commenter "Rawhide". He/she brings some interesting pieces of information to the forefront. Your silence appears to be more of an acceptance to the accusation of an attempt to spin as he/she put it.

Jason Bryant, Irvine, California
May 22, 2014 12:24pm

I don't care what the skeptics say, I started drinking Kangen water and it has made a HUGE differnce! Drink the water! Don't listen to others and make your own decision!!!!! I love Kangen WATER!!!!!

Lynn, Cabot, AR
May 25, 2014 11:37am

I agree with the article. I drank Kangen water for 3 months and had my blood drawn and analyzed. Then I drank filtered tap water (the water is very good where I live) and had my blood tested. The results - the same. The key is the Kangen rep had me drinking tons of the 'magic water' everyday. If you drink that much regular tap water or plain filter brita water and stop sugary soft drinks you will feel better! it's the amount of water you drink, not the 'magic' alkaline water.

TommyD, Southeast Coast
May 26, 2014 1:41pm

Hi Brian,
I recall doing an experiment in grade 3 with acid and alkaline. the acid used was lemon juice and the alkaline was water. is it not ironic that you would use rain water as an example to substantiate your claims. Incidently Cape Town South Africa is renowned for its water quality and is placed fourth in the world for its tap water quality. We can drink water from our taps and not have to think about it too much. When I asked my friend who is an analytic chemist who specializes in water management to test the difference between the two types of water the results were phenomenal. Please note that the Kangen machine produces acidic as well as alkaline water simultaneously. Please verify what you present before justifying your argument with facts that do not directly apply to a particular device. does a 220 volt bulb make more light than a 110 volt bulb??? I guess more specific information is required.

The truth will only be accepted if peer reviewed double blinded studies are conducted and published in accredited medical journals.

Thank you for igniting the discussion.

Ebrahim Mosaval

Fire Horse, Cape Town South Africa
May 28, 2014 4:38am

My family consists of three people. All three have experienced health-success' after drinking the Kangen water produced by the Enagic equipment. Mine was the most profound, with a 30 year old ankle disability 80% resolved. My wife and daughter used to get acid reflux just from plain water. They no longer do. I have met dozens of others with similar testimonials--many recovering from more severe conditions.
I think the problem that many people have with this topic is that they assume that we the Enagic sellers, are trying to upgrade our incomes by prostituting ourselves. That we are really Walmart check-out clerks, who think we can enter the 'middle class' by selling 'snake-oil'.
I used to have 25 people working for me and did $11+ million in yearly sales with a 26% gross profit margin. Throughout my career, I turned down significant offers, including one to perform on Broadway and another to work in the Clinton White House. I like this product because it helps people with their most important problem, health.
Its all about electrons. The alkalinity is a side-effect. Modern living has caused a biological shortage of electrons in most people. This in turn causes less O2 to circulate the blood. The depleted O2 causes a wide array of health problems. All anti-oxidants have the same active 'ingredient', namely. surplus electrons. The Kangen water does this job best because it is freshly charged from your wall outlet and should be consumed freshly. The effectiveness is all about sheer volume. It would take 35 cloves of garlic to have the same electron donation as a glass of Kangen water. Who could eat 35 garlic cloves? Most Kangen drinkers have 1/2-gallon or more per d

Isidor, North New Jersey
July 7, 2014 8:25am

Isidor, you forgot to use the word quantum...

Andy, Melbourne
July 8, 2014 10:18am

I have learned that some people with a significant medical ailment will hang onto "the cure" no matter what. If you question the logic, or if you attempt to show the complete lack of scientific credibility they will disregard your words at best, and may even become violent at worst. I have given up for the most part.

But this condition is not restricted to those who are ill. I have found that even those who are in good health will convince themselves of the efficacy of the product in question, be it a pill, a device, or snake oil.

I am currently reading a booklet written by a medical doctor concerning this subject. I am having trouble as I break out in laughter after a couple of minutes of reading. I'll send you the name in the near future, along with a fairly comprehensive analysis of the statements made.

George, Calabasas, CA
July 20, 2014 9:01pm

"Water molecules in liquid water move about freely, there is no way that a hexagonal arrangement could be formed or made stable."

I'm currently reading The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor Paperback - May 1, 2013 by Gerald Pollack.

He makes a compelling case that hexagonal structures can and do occur along a boundary of a hydrophilic surface and what he calls "bulk water".

- That the water that forms along this boundary has properties that are quite different for "water". It's more dense. It's structured (similar to ice). It's electrically charged (-). It excludes "non-water" that is, micro spheres, dyes, dissolved solids etc are repelled from this Exclusion Zone.

- That this zone is much larger than the traditionally assumed 1-2 molecules in depth, reaching into the millions of molecules depth.

-That the existence of this exclusion zone explains many of the physical phenomena of water that are difficult to explain without it.

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying any of those MLM miracle water products are anything other than nonsense. But your comment on the impossibility that hexagonal structures exist may not be accurate. I realize this was not in any way the point of your article, but it caught my eye and I thought you might be interested.

Regardless, The Forth Phase of Water is an interesting read, if you have the time.

Ken, Mentor, OH
August 25, 2014 1:38pm

So my aunt and uncle were convinced Kengen would work. He is a power lifer and has several varying health problems including gout, psoriasis, and a cut/scab that will not heal. My aunt has high blood pressure and digestive problems...I think it is IBD or something. Anyway, they have had their unit for 3 years now and swear by it, all the while, taking medications for their problems. Funny thing is that non of their ailments have gone away! So at family parties, I bring up its effectiveness in a non offensive way. They admit that they haven't improved but say they sleep better now and that the unit is worth the money. They offered me and my wife bottles of the water since they can tell I was skeptic. Well, it's been 8 months now and nothing has changed for us. I'm still bald and just went to the Dr for my check up. My bad cholesterol is up, good cholesterol is down, and still have high blood pressure. We are bringing home 2 gallons a day, every day. I think I'm about to give up on this product, although I always knew it was bogus. I was just hoping all the hype would prove me wrong. Would be nice to have a miracle Do-All product. But this isn't it.

I'm "JustMe" and I approve this message.

JustMe, Riverside
October 10, 2014 4:40pm

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