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 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, 3 Feb 2009. Web. 9 Oct 2015. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4139>


10 most recent comments | Show all 405 comments

If ever someone was looking for a textbook example of shill postings this thread is a great one. If you actually believed everything the Kangen shills posted here, Kangen Water cures/treats the following: obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood-pressure, digestive, lower back pain, acid reflux, low energy problems, dehydration, Fibromyalgia, arthritis, broken bone in neck, bulged discs, lengthen human lifespan, stomach cancer, kidney failure, removes toxins, chronic fatigue, depression, all forms of cancer!, constipation, skin problems, freckle removal, reduction/removal of bruises, colds and flu (never get sick), immune problems, type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, high cholesterol, stomach pains, asthma, rotator cuff pains, sleep problems/apnea, leg swelling, knee pain, arthritic back pain, just makes you feel better, ulceritve colitis, cellular hydration, beddridden for 10 years, bleeding gums, leg cramps, "most beneficial health device in the world", kidney stones, psoriasis, migraines, ADD, more energy, less acid build up in the muscle, leukemia, epilepsy, erectile disfunction, hypoglycemia, hyperhidrosis, feel more vital, congenital diseases, chronic pain, and IBS. Some ridiculous common phrases used are "miracles", "blessings from God/Jesus", "This Water Works" and "I don't need a chemist's opinion All I know is this water WORKS" and "Just try it and you'll believe". This list is a testament to the falsehood of Kangen miracule cure claims of distributors/shills.

The Rationalist, Vancouver/BC
January 21, 2015 10:48am

I was given a small bottle of Kangen 'beauty water' to try. I have been using it for 5 days now on my face and hands. Before, my hands were cracked and dry, sometimes to the point of bleeding. No lotion helped. I work in a very dry office building. My skin around my nose and mouth were frequently red from dryness as well. In the last 5 days I've actually noticed a significant difference just misting my hands and face with the beauty water a few times a day (when normally it would be lotion application). I am still hydrating with regular filtered tap water. Maybe drinking it is all hype, I don't know. But I notice and appreciate the difference topically.

pghperson, pittsburgh
January 21, 2015 1:22pm

Great article. The truth is there unfortunately most people commenting believe what they are saying about akaline or electrons etc in the body but yet they can provide no proof of this and it has all been discredited to my knowledge by doctors and scientists.

gareth, calgary
February 9, 2015 10:14pm

"Modern living has caused a biological shortage of electrons in most people." Man, they say modern life takes it out of us - little did I realize they were talking about electrons! This does give me a great idea for a new eBay business, though. To the guy who mentioned many of these folks talk about God, that's guilt by association: I'm a full-inerrancy believer in Christianity, and rest assured that most of us can see fake science as well as anybody.

Gary, Leesburg, VA
February 14, 2015 2:06pm

At the request of a friend am researching Kangen Water/Machines. Conclusion: Would never buy one and could not in good conscience recommend or sell one. If there is any - even small - bit of truth it is lost in a sea of falsehoods, unsubstantiated claims, and/or is misrepresented.

Question for anyone who does, though - does the machine actually show you the ORP of the two water streams? Kangen claims redox of -470mV in literature I have for the reduced water stream.

skep-tech, Ireland
February 28, 2015 2:56am

At the suggestion of Charleschen91350@gmail.com I went to PubMed for the documentation and this is what I found:
Efficacy of neutral electrolyzed water for reducing pathogenic bacteria contaminating shrimp. - not applicable as it is not being ingested by people, I'm abbreviating this to NA to save characters.
Modeling of Bacillus cereus growth in brown rice submitted to a combination of ultrasonication and slightly acidic electrolyzed water treatment. - NA
Microbial reduction efficacy of various disinfection treatments on fresh-cut cabbage. - NA
Evaluating use of neutral electrolyzed water for cleaning near-patient surfaces. -NA
Benefits of neutral electrolyzed oxidizing water as a drinking water additive for broiler chickens. - NA
Inactivation of Alicyclobacillus acidoterrestris spores in aqueous suspension and on apples by neutral electrolyzed water - NA
Slightly acidic electrolyzed water for reducing airborne microorganisms in a layer breeding house. -NA
The effect of pH and chloride concentration on the stability and antimicrobial activity of chlorine-based sanitizers.- NA
Airborne bacterial reduction by spraying slightly acidic electrolyzed water in a laying-hen house.
Application of slightly acidic electrolyzed water for inactivating microbes in a layer breeding house. - NA
Similar applications from 11 to 23 where the water was used as a disinfectant, dust control, etc on vegetables, and given to livestock - then...please see next post

skep-tech, Ireland
March 3, 2015 2:22pm

Effect of molecular hydrogen saturated alkaline electrolyzed water on disuse muscle atrophy in gastrocnemius muscle. - test on rats that, to quote the publication, "in this experimental protocol, continuous consumption of HSW during HU does not demonstrate successful attenuation of oxidative stress and HU-mediated gastrocnemius atrophy". In other words, it had no effect.
#25 NA
The melamine excretion effect of the electrolyzed reduced water in melamine-fed mice. OK, I hope no one decides to try taking melamine-laden food to see if this works on people. The results seem to indicate an increase in acid crystals in the urine but a decrease in stones. Would like to see this study repeated once or twice more.
27 NA
Suppressive effects of electrolyzed reduced water on alloxan-induced apoptosis and type 1 diabetes mellitus. - Now this is interesting, can someone with a biology background interpret, because it looks like the ERW did have positive results in vivo.
#29-32, 34 - NA more uses as topical disinfectant.
Biological safety of neutral-pH hydrogen-enriched electrolyzed water upon mutagenicity, genotoxicity and subchronic oral toxicity. NA This test demonstrates only that there are no adverse effects, i.e. the water is biologically safe, but not that it has or has not any beneficial effects.
Electrolyzed-reduced water inhibits acute ethanol-induced hangovers in Sprague-Dawley rats. - interesting, can a biologist comment?
Note no peer reviews or comments.

skep-tech, Ireland
March 3, 2015 3:31pm

36-40 more uses as disinfectant.

I may go on to some more but this is hardly overwhelming evidence supporting all the claims.

There is, listed in the Certificates for Enagic, some Trademark documents listing the device as 'chlorine odor removal' in addition to making ERW but that does indicate or endorse efficacy.

Some of the certificates referred to are for Safety, as anything used in a medical environment must be certified safe, like a CSA/UL/CE marking.

Similarly, a document saying the company has a copyright and is a member of the Direct marketing association, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 Certs - these are business documents and have nothing to do with medical evidence or effectiveness.

The Certifications Section presents no meaningful science supporting the claims.

My original post still stands; I remain very, very sceptical, but open minded.

Good health to all, however and wherever you can get it.

skep-tech, Ireland
March 3, 2015 3:54pm

Have you heard of Hydrogen gas as a therapeutic antioxidant? All the good studies for electrolyzed reduced water is done under the name of hydrogen water. As the water is split, two hydrogen ions plus electrons form hydrogen gas. This dissolved hydrogen gas is the benefit of the water and now has over 400 peer reviewed studies showing benefit to 150 diseases. The alkalinity has a benefit of making the water absorb faster. When water hits your stomach it cannot pass into the intestines until the pH is raised to at least 8.5. Drinking 9.5pH water means it passes through and instantly opens up the pyloric valve to be absorbed in the intestines.

Most of the marketing for Kangen is pseudoscience but there is enough real science that we don't need this anymore. The problem was the real science only started showing up more recently as dissolved hydrogen gas was discovered to be the main benefit but many people are still stuck on the old pseudoscience terms and are unwilling to change their ways of promoting this technology. I suggest you search pubmed for hydrogen water and find some of the real studies.

Brian, Saskatoon
April 28, 2015 10:38pm

I had prostate cancer and all I changed was my diet and started drinking alkaline ionized water and about a year and a half later the same urologist office told me I was cancer free. I took no chemo and would not let them cut it out. I've had people that all they do is drink the water, stop drinking sodas and power drinks and I have people I personally know that tell me all kinds of ailments don't hurt anymore. All the doctors in Japan and hospitals that use this water in Japan, are they stupid or smarter than Americans? They are having great results because they want to cure the problem, and from what I'm learning, that is what they are doing. My cancer is gone and I have the medical history to prove I had it and that it's gone.

James Bishop, Shelby, NC
June 16, 2015 7:57am

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