Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Water ionizers, alkalinity, and surfing

Are you unhealthy?  Stressed?  Overweight?  Perhaps you think that the solution to all of these is to seek medical care, find ways to reduce stress, eat smaller quantities of better quality food, exercise more.

Ha.  A lot you know.

All you really need is to drink alkaline water.

Due to my daily research for topics for this blog, and the website-tracking software that is ubiquitous these days, I am frequently bombarded with advertisements from the extreme end of the woo-woo spectrum.  It amuses me slightly that the tracking can get it so wrong; you have to wonder how long it will take for software designers to figure out that it's all well and good for their software to pick up on words like "psychics," "crystals," and "homeopathy," but it really doesn't work if it doesn't simultaneously pick up on words like "bogus," "nonsense," and "bullshit."

Be that as it may, there's one particular advertisement that has popped up about a dozen times lately, and I thought that such tenacity deserved at least a cursory look, so I clicked the link, which brought me here.

If you'd prefer not to give the tracking bots the impression you like this stuff by clicking the link yourself, let me give you the skinny on what they're claiming.

All of life's problems, the ad claims, are caused by the fact that the body is functioning at the wrong pH.  "The body prefers an alkaline balance," it says.  "Diet and stress causes acids to build up in the body, resulting in weight gain and contributing to health problems.  A healthy body produces enzymes that provide natural detoxification.  Toxins and oxidative acids break those enzymes down."  Furthermore, "acidic water" contains "water molecules in large clumps" that are hard for the body to absorb.  On the other hand, "alkaline ionized water is microclustered -- large molecule clusters are broken down -- (it is) easier to absorb, cells hydrate quickly, and it speeds athletic hydration and recovery."

Um... okay.  Now that I know that, what do I do?

You should clearly purchase a "water ionizer," which this company sells.  The first model I looked at sold for... $1,997.00.

Can't afford that?  They have LOTS of other products.  My favorite was "Dr. Life's Vortex Water Ionizer," which was, as far as I could see, a water pitcher, except that it was priced at $197.00.  However, if you can't afford anything better, "These pitchers will produce a moderate pH and moderate negative Oxidation Reduction Potential (-ORP) levels.  A negative ORP level means the water works as an antioxidant.  Regular water has a positive ORP, which means it is an oxidant which could create damaging free radicals in your body!"  Of course, "The Pitcher of Life and the Dr. Life Vortex Water Optimizer are great when you’re away from home, but they don’t match the pH, nor the high negative ORP levels recommended for optimal health results.  They also don’t micro-cluster water or filter it as well as home ionizers do."

So, if you're willing to skimp on your health, and possibly not detoxify the damaging free radicals that are currently trying to tear you limb from limb every time you drink a glass of water, then have it your way.

Except, of course, for the fact that this is the biggest load of nonsense I've seen since I read about the practice of sticking a lit candle in your ear to suck out the earwax.  (If you missed that post, you can read it here.)

Okay, where do I start?  Since evidently the whole market for "water ionizers" consists of the people who didn't pay attention in their high school chemistry class, let me do a brief chemistry lesson.

pH is a measure of the quantity of hydrogen ions in a solution.  For reasons that don't really matter for our discussion, pH is a logarithmic scale (i.e. one difference in pH amounts to a difference of a factor of ten in the concentration of hydrogen ions), and pHs above 7 are basic (alkaline), below 7 are acidic, and 7 is neutral (the pH of pure water).  Alkalinity is a measure of the capacity of a solution to neutralize an acid.

So, that's the basic idea (ba-dump-bump-kssssh).  Let's take our now vastly increased knowledge of chemistry, and analyze the claims made by the LifeIonizer people, okay?

If acidic fluids are toxic, how do we survive drinking orange juice and lemonade?  I drink orange juice every day, and typical orange juice has a pH of about 5.  This corresponds to a hundred-fold higher concentration of hydrogen ions than pure water has.  I am, surprisingly enough after all of that bodily abuse, still alive and kicking.  And how about stomach acid?  You have to wonder why, if acids are as bad as all that, your body deliberately produces a fluid with a pH of about 1.5, which is then mixed with every single item of food we eat.  So let's say you drink water that has somehow been "alkalinized," and its pH raised to 8 or so.  The alkalinity of the water you just drank will be overwhelmed by being mixed into an acidic fluid that is over a hundred thousand times higher in hydrogen concentration than it is.

Oh... well... okay.  Maybe we just need to make the water more alkaline, so that it neutralizes those toxic acids better.  The problem is, the higher you drive the pH, (1) the worse it will taste, and (2) the more caustic it becomes.  If their argument is correct -- that the more alkaline a solution is, the better it is for you -- they should demonstrate this for us by swigging Drano, which has a pH of about 13.  That'll neutralize those nasty acids, all right, not to mention cleaning out their pipes in a fairly spectacular fashion.

So, to sum up: yes, your body produces acids.  Yes, some of the foods you consume are acidic.  No, that doesn't mean you're gradually destroying your own tissue.  If you purchase a "water ionizer," all that will happen is that your pocketbook will be two grand lighter; you will have no positive health effects whatsoever, above and beyond the health effects that any of us would have by drinking more water.  And no, you won't lose weight unless you eat less and exercise more.  "Alkaline water" doesn't "melt off the pounds," it just tastes vaguely nasty.

And I won't even dignify the "large water molecule clusters" claim with a response.

Anyway, there you have it.  See the kind of thing I get subjected to on a daily basis?  Maybe I should start to blog on, say, surfing.  Okay, I know, I've only had one surfing lesson in my life, but given that the tracking software thinks that I believe in all of this woo-woo bullshit, I doubt that will matter, as long as I mention "surfing" enough.  And then, I'd get advertisements that would be nice to look at, featuring scantily clad women on beaches in Hawaii, instead of advertisements for "LifeIonizers."  So, toward that end: surfing surfing surfing bikinis surfing.


  1. Surfing the Psychic Waves with Kristina Walsh.
    Kristina hosts Surfing the Psychic Waves where she talks to surfers, psychics and metaphysicians to further explore the concepts of peace within meditation, psychic ...

    The Borg will assimilate. Resistance is futile.

  2. I've been researching water ionizers but I still don't understand what their for. What are the benefits of ionizing water? Removing toxics and other substances?