The $4,000 scam on alkaline water
Recently, we visited a relative abroad. He’s a retired professor who used to teach science subjects in school. I had quite a bit of a surprise when he showed me a device about 14 inches tall called a water alkalinizer or ionizer. It’s supposed to convert the “acidic water” which we usually drink into alkaline water which can cure all sorts of diseases. The device cost him $4,000 or something like P180,000 from an MLM (multilevel marketing) agent.
My jaw almost dropped. I’d probably not even buy that machine for $100. Whoever sold that plastic contraption to my scholarly relative must really be very smart to convince him about its supposed phenomenal health benefits.
But I did not want to offend my relative’s feelings so I just told him a curt “it seems to be too good to be true.” But if it worked for him and made him feel good, the exorbitant price he paid for it shouldn’t be much of an issue, I said politely. Then I immediately changed the topic so we did not have to get into an argument about the apparent scam he had just allowed himself to be a willing victim of.
I’m sharing this story here (hopefully my relative does not get to read it online) because I know that these machines are also being sold here—probably not at the price my relative bought—but at a similarly unreasonably high price.
Water therapy advocate
Sure, I’m an advocate of water therapy and I’ve been emphasizing in this column that it is one of the best natural medicines freely available to man. We should drink enough of it daily to remain healthy. But the marketers of alkaline or ionized water is making it a very expensive placebo (inactive medicine).
A few years ago, we wrote in this column that plain water is still the best and that the claimed advantages of all these types of “other waters” are not based on scientific evidence. It’s more of a marketing hype.
Alkaline water is supposed to have a higher pH level than plain water and, according to those marketing it, its alkalinity can neutralize the acidity in the body and have favorable effects on the absorption of essential nutrients into the bloodstream, enhance the body’s metabolism, prevent diseases and even slow down the aging process.
A patient even showed me once a copy of a clinical trial suggesting that alkaline water may help retard bone loss in people with a predisposition for the blood to become acidic due to some medical conditions, like chronic kidney disease. Well, to achieve that more effectively, one can just give the patient a few sodium bicarbonate tablets, which cost a lot cheaper than alkaline water.
Bogus health claims
Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known book author and authority on nutrition from Harvard Medical School, was direct to the point when he said in one article: “The health claims for water ionizers and alkaline water are bogus. Save your money.”
Another expert, Dr. True Ott, minced no words in stressing that the so-called health benefits of water alkalinizers or ionizers are based on junk science. “These machines strip electrons from the contaminants themselves, and this creates hydroxyl ions which are harmful free radicals. The OH- ions attack cells and stimulate adrenaline, which is why there is a short-term buzz, but in the long run it creates a condition that breeds cancer. It can also cause arthritis,” he explained.
Unless one has serious medical issues, the body by itself should be able to take care of maintaining the right pH level in the blood and various tissues, provided one is adequately hydrated and properly nourished. This process, which God has perfectly designed in most living organisms, is called homeostasis. It refers to the capability of the body to maintain internal stability, characterized by a coordinated response of the various organ-systems in the body to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb their normal state or function.
Under normal conditions, this compensatory mechanism operates nonstop 24/7, but diseases can disrupt this process. Alkaline, ionized or hydrogenated water would not be necessary to restore the normal pH level of the blood and tissues; and it should be no better than plain water in hydrating the body.
I was told that the MLM companies selling water alkalinizers in the Philippines are making good business despite the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory sometime last year warning the public about the “false, deceptive and misleading claims and strategies to promote alkaline water and oxygenated water.”
Then FDA director Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go reproached establishments operating vendo-type outlets or filling stations and those engaged in the manufacture, importation and distribution of water purification devices for their “unsubstantiated therapeutic claims in the promotion and marketing of their products and/or purification devices allegedly producing water known as ‘alkaline water’ or ‘oxygenated water.’”
Dr. Go stated that the therapeutic or clinical benefits being claimed by those promoting alkaline or oxygenated water lack scientific or clinical studies and that they are not approved by the FDA.
“One need not buy an expensive water machine or expensive water to achieve health benefits. Drinking ionized water doesn’t change your blood pH level. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will help your body (to become) alkaline and provide for more health benefits unless one has serious respiratory or kidney problems,” explained Dr. Go in the FDA advisory.
All devices used in the manufacture of foods and drinks should be evaluated and approved by the Center for Device Regulation, Radiation Health and Research of the FDA, which issues a certificate of health-related device registration. This certificate assures the public that the device has passed the FDA standards for quality and safety. No certificate has been issued for devices producing alkaline or oxygenated water up to the time the advisory was issued.
So, care for alkaline water? No thanks. Ordinary water would do.
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