The Bottom Line

I prepared the discussion below in response to questions visitors ask about the truth of claims made by manufacturers and distributors of 'altered' or 'enhanced' water products (or devices) that allegedly increase the health benefits of various 'treated' water - over drinking regular water.

Promotions for these 'enhanced' water products claim that the physical properties and/or energy characteristics of water molecules can be altered by some treatment to produce a wide range of general health benefits.  Claims are also made that the structure/energy of water produced by distillation and reverse osmosis is actually harmful to health and that 'acidic' water is harmful or 'alkaline/ionized' water is beneficial to health.

Promoters for 'enhanced' water products often criticize science as being so inflexible and scientists as so arrogant that their new processes for treating health issues are ignored and vilified without being given a fair chance.  That is, of course, complete self-serving nonsense.  In truth, as so eloquently stated by Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World,  " the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes -- an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive, and the most ruthlessly skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense."

Any new ideas, processes, products &/or services proposed by 'enhanced' water marketers (or any new health treatment) are, in fact, welcomed by the scientific community.  However, they like all new scientific ideas, are subject to "the most ruthlessly skeptical scrutiny".  If they can be demonstrated to perform as advertised they become part of scientific truth - if not, they become part of the rejected "deep nonsense". 

Can 'Enhanced' or 'Altered' water products influence health?
Short answer:  No - - - -  &  - - - - Illusionary.

  No: I have found absolutely NO reliable, published, reproducible, scientific evidence after years of searching the medical literature and other reliable sources:
a) That any of the so-called 'enhanced-water' treatment processes can restructure, energize or otherwise alter water to cause any health effects that are different from drinking regular, untreated water in well-designed blinded studies.
b) That support any theories to explain the alleged physical, energy, and chemical characteristics of 'altered' water products or the processes alleged to produce them.
c) That describes or demonstrates the actual processes by which any of the 'altered' water products might work in the body to produce the alleged health benefits.
d) That either distillation or reverse osmosis creates water that's harmful to health.
e) That alkaline or ionized water helps the body regulate pH or has any other health benefit.   More information here
f) That homeopathic remedies are significantly more effective than placebos.
  Illusionary:  There are a number of reasons that an an 'altered'/'enhanced' water product can appear to be effective, and there are a number of marketing and presentation strategies that are used effectively to enhance this appearance, or illusion, of effectiveness.
a) The placebo effect, can create the illusion that a product is effective. In reality, it is the excitement, expectation and belief created by an effective product presentation that creates the observed placebo effect, and not any specific characteristic of the product. In the case of 'altered'/'enhanced' water products, regular, untreated water would have exactly the same health effects in a blinded experiment.  Research has shown that placebos can actually cause biochemical changes in the body (as the brain responds to expectations) that can result in reduced pain, inflammation, irritation and other relatively minor health effects.
b) Official company claims about what a product is supposed to do are usually vague, so it is difficult to really know whether your "energy or your cellular electrical properties have increased", that you have been "protected from early aging" or that you have "gained better health".  However, since the expectations are vague, it's easy to convince yourself that you have had a positive experience - - - if that is what you have been told to expect, and if that is what you want to believe.
c) Companies that market 'altered'/'enhanced' water products are not able to provide good experimental, scientific evidence of effectiveness, so exciting, positive testimonials collected from satisfied users and other sources are used to convince prospective customers that a product works - despite the fact that uncontrolled testimonials do not provide reliable evidence of effectiveness. 
d) Since traditional scientific methods do not support claims made for 'enhanced'/'altered' water products, traditional science and medicine are frequently demonized. Promoters of these products try to discredit the tools of science (like controlled experiments and critical thinking) and vilify government regulatory agencies like the FDA that rely on scientific studies and processes. Promoters of these products then suggest that their alternative practices, processes and products (and the absence of any restrictive regulations or controlled testing) are the only reliable alternative for good health care.  So, according to their propaganda and logic, it makes more sense to believe the claims of unregulated products that have no scientific validity and no experimental evidence demonstrating effectiveness than to trust products developed using scientific methods and rigorous testing to prove effectiveness and subject to government regulations and oversight -- Think about it!
e) Much like the performance of a good magician, those who market these 'altered'/'enhanced' water products skillfully use techniques proven to bolster belief and guide expectations that their product is a real, effective treatment for some health issues instead of an illusion.
f) Aside from the ethical issues of promoting products using false and misleading claims, there can be unpleasant consequences for people who continue to use placebo products for serious health problems that do not respond to the expectations of wishful, magical thinking. (Read More)

Alleged Treatments and Health Claims of 'Enhanced' Water

Manufacturers employ considerable creativity and imagination in the development of a new 'Enhanced' Water product.  Three elements of the marketing strategy are critical:
  1. health benefits claims that are compelling enough to interest potential customers in trying the product but not specific enough to attract the interest of the Federal Drug Administration and require actual scientific proof of effectiveness. 
  2. an interesting process used to treat the water and allegedly alter/energize it in some way that will sound convincing and scientific to someone who doesn't have a science background. 
  3. an intriguing story about the discovery or development of the process to build interest and connect the consumer with the product. 
  • For example - Announcing our newly released proprietary product, PorPhenH2O, from Porphyritic Enterprises: "In 1911 the famous, intrepid explorer, John Carter, discovered a pristine natural spring in a remote Karakoram valley bubbling over an outcrop of Porphyritic rock.  He was amazed to discover that nearby inhabitants enjoyed extraordinary health and longevity - the plants surrounding the spring were remarkably lush too.  Carter returned samples of this extraordinary water and the surrounding rocks, but they remained hidden in an old trunk with his notes until long after his death.  Our founder, ERB, discovered the trunk in an attic, tested the samples and set about unraveling the mystery described in the notes.  ERB worked tirelessly to unlock the Porphyritic secrets.  He ultimately discovered that the phenocrysts embedded in the matrix alter photonic reflections and modify the resulting vibrational energy absorbed by surrounding water molecules.  ERB was able to duplicate these results in his laboratory and created PorPhenH2O."
    PorPhenH2O modulates cluster size and energizes the water molecules in precisely the same manner as other 'enhanced' water product so you will experience exactly the same health benefits in hydration, oxygen delivery, metabolism, overall health, detoxification, energy and body pH.  You can purchase bottles of PorPhenH2O or own your own PorPhenH2O felsic treatment module.  Extensive testimonials from our satisfied customers conclusively demonstrate the effectiveness of PorPhenH2O.

Alleged 'Altered'/'Enhanced' Water Treatments:

  • Magnetized water
  • Clustered water
  • Energized water
  • Structured water
  • Organic water | Living water | Dead Water
  • Nikken Pi Mag water
  • Photonic water activation
  • Vibrationally charged water
  • Hydrogenated water
  • Vortexed water
  • Homeopathic dilution & succussion
    pro | con | skit | skeptic | more
  • Ionized/Alkaline water
  • Interactive water with intention
  • Beotron energy
  • Chi generators
  • Oxygenated water
  • M-Activation Technology
  • Quantum Aqua Technology
  • Imploding vortex
  • Noble gas infusions
  • Nano energizing frequency
  • Micowater
  • Hexa structured water
  • Penta Water
  • Altered H bond angles
  • John Ellis energized-distilled water
  • Willard catalyzed water
  • Dynamically harmonized water
  • Clayton Nolte's Structured Water
  • GIAPlex™ technology
  • Masaru Emoto: ice crystals
  • Audio Slideshow Quacks and Cures

'Altered' Water Claims:

  • Increased hydration
  • Enhanced oxygen delivery
  • Better overall health
  • A more positive attitude
  • Boosted metabolism
  • Detoxification of the body
  • Helps joint & muscle pain
  • Greater energy and vitality
  • Fewer negative emotions
  • Normalize, maintain body pH
  • Decreased stress levels
  • Enhanced antioxidant activity
  • Better more relaxed sleep
  • Memory enhancement
  • Greater strength
  • Heightened endurance
  • A stronger immune system
  • Protection from early aging
  • Increased mobility
  • Improved cellular electrical properties
  • Softer smoother skin
  • Increased absorption of nutrients
  • 114o bond angle kills pathogens
  • Ice crystal structure is changed in response to words, music or thoughts
  • Erase the negative imprinting in waters
  • Increases bio-photonic energy in water
Note: these vague, difficult to measure claims are typically provided by the official manufacture literature.  Specific claims of disease cures are often made unofficially by distributors or in product testimonials.  The placebo effect can easily account for any perceived health benefits of any of the 'altered' or 'enhanced' water products.
The key to understanding this page is to realize that none of the processes alleged to treat and somehow enhance the water or any of the claimed health benefits have be validated scientifically.  If you do not understand the chemistry, physics and physiology of the claims that are made about a product, and If you choose to believe the claims of a sales person, you are placing complete trust in them, and you are accepting without verification that everything you are told is accurate.  If your health and finances are on the line, you might want to get a second, expert, unbiased (i.e. nothing to sell) opinion.

Health Benefits?

People may indeed experience perceived health benefits after they drink water allegedly 'enhanced'/'altered' by treatments like Nikken Pi Mag, Willard catalyzed, alkaline, oxygenated, John Ellis, Penta, Quantum Aqua or countless other 'flavors' of 'altered' water.

The well documented placebo effect is powerful enough that people's expectations and beliefs about how a product will work can actually cause the expected experience  - particularly for vague, difficult to measure outcomes. The placebo's evil twin the nocebo effect is probably responsible for any negative effects experienced from drinking water produced by distillation or reverse osmosis. This article discusses the placebo effect and proposes a BEET score to rate the effectiveness of products that are able to trigger the placebo effect. 

Penn and Teller's Placebo Effect episode further illustrates how suggestion and an uncritical willingness to believe can explain not only people's perceptions about some alleged treatment but this belief can explain whydownright fraudulent companies are successful in marketing their products, services or ideas.  It is important to realize that intelligence really has nothing to do with acceptance of fraudulent products, services or ideas - acceptance depends almost entirely on the skill of presentation, a lack of specific knowledge or experience in the subject, a desire and willingness to believe and a failure to engage critical thinking skills.

Scan through the claims attributed to various types of 'enhanced'/'altered' water treatments listed above and to the left (these are official claims taken verbatim from various company websites).  Notice that they are nearly all vague and difficult to accurately measure (quantify). Examine the first seven: Increased hydration, Enhanced oxygen delivery, Better overall health, A more positive attitude, Boosted metabolism, Detoxification of the body and Helps joint & muscle.  It is extremely unlikely you will ever find a precise description of these expected results - descriptions, for example, that would specifically outline:

One reason the official health benefit claims for these products are deliberately vague is because it is easier to convince someone they have had a positive experience when there are no precise goals to meet nor specific before-and-after measurements to compare. The main reason precise outcomes are never mentioned, though, is because the health effects of these products are illusions; so it would not be a good marketing strategy to provide specific, measurable expectations for their customers. It is also illegal for a company to advertise claims that a product will treat a specific disease unless the claim can be proved scientifically. 

Since the companies that manufacture and market 'altered'/'enhanced' water products are unable to provide scientific evidence that their products successfully treat specific diseases, those claims are made by the independent representatives who make the claims (and provide uncontrolled testimonials as proof) that arthritis, diabetes, cancer, etc. can be successfully treated.   

If you are considering the purchase of an alternative treatment, product or service, ask the representative for specific scientific evidence that the the product is effective at producing a specific health effect and carefully review the evidence for validity (ask a local high school chemistry or biology teacher for advice, for example). Do your own blinded experiment, if possible, to verify some specific testable claims (more energy, better sleep, decreased stress, etc) for yourself before you make a purchase.

The reality, however, is that any alleged health effects for any 'altered' water products cannot be distinguished from untreated water in well designed, blinded studies.  Without any valid scientific evidence to support their health claims (or the theories behind those claims), those who market these 'enhanced' water products or services must rely on testimonials (personal observations) of alleged users.  Although these testimonials may passionately support the product/service, there are many good reasons (in addition to the placebo effect) NOT to trust testimonials when you are making a decision that might affect your health and the health of your family.

Reality and Illusion:

Where does all the convincing marketing hype leave the consumer?
Often at the mercy of the 'altered'/'enhanced' water merchant.  Just one illustration of the dilemma:  Every shred of available scientific evidence supports the conclusion that the oxygen dissolved in bottles of "oxygenated water" would only slightly benefit fish and other aquatic creatures swimming in it, not land-dwelling humans.  Yet perfectly intelligent people, who are not scientifically informed, report that they feel more energetic after paying for and drinking a $1.95 bottle of oxygenated water.

Much like the performance of a good magician, those who market these 'altered'/'enhanced' water products skillfully use techniques proven to bolster belief and guide expectations that their product is an effective treatment for some health issues.  These techniques include:

You, the customers -- like the magician's audience -- get to see exactly the outcomes the 'altered'/'enhanced' water promoters want you to see -- an effective illusion.

Before you go to a sales meeting for one of these 'alternative'/'enhanced' water products, watch a YouTube video of a good magic act and observe how the audience is distracted from reality by a skillful presentation (the outcomes are all illusions despite the appearance of reality).  The magician carefully guides their expectations and hides reality.  The audience only experiences the outcome the magician wants them to experience.

At a sales meeting, watch how the expectations of those in attendance are carefully 'guided' by the presenter, and any requests to provide real scientific supporting evidence are usually deflected.  There are exceptions, like alkaline water, where there is a lot of what appears to be scientific supporting evidence available.  In these instances, it is only with significant effort that it becomes obvious that the evidence provided does not really support even the most basic and fundamental marketing claims.

So, companies conduct their alchemy and market oxygenated, micro-clustered, alkaline, energized water and similar products.  If the marketing presentation is well done, though; if you sincerely want to believe the product will work for you; if you believe the sales person is trustworthy and honest; if you believe all the testimonials that are presented are true; and if you do not have the experience or background to evaluate the evidence presented, it can be difficult to remain a skeptic and quite easy to become a customer.

Then, if some customers perceive (for whatever reason) that the product works, more testimonials are collected, and those are used to lure more customers -- and the cycle continues.  If other customers do not perceive that the product is effective, no one may ever know because, unlike a scientific study, there is no requirement (or desire) to carefully collect, analyze and present ALL of the evidence that might be available - or control for the many alternate reasons a product might appear to be effective.

A very interesting and informative Reality TV Series could be developed to scientifically test the claims of a wide range of consumer products on volunteers and "publish" the results on National TV.  Unfortunately, that will never happen because the TV stations depend on advertising revenues from products with marketing claims that would be very susceptible to exposure as misleading at best and occasionally downright fraudulent.

Your mind is perfectly capable of creating the same health benefits you would experience when drinking any of the 'enhanced' or 'altered' water products just by thinking about what you want to experience.  It seems though, that for most people a 'prop' (or totem) of some kind is necessary to jump-start the placebo effect and create the necessary expectation and beliefs that lead to a perceived health benefit. The 'altered'/'enhanced' water products can provide effective but expensive 'props'.

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.
Loran Eisley, The Immense Journey, 1957

My suggestion:  If you are convinced that any of the 'altered' water products are (or will be) effective, you can save your money by focusing your thoughts on a glass of regular water.  Water is a truly extraordinary and magical substance - all life depends on it.

So, take an ordinary glass of water and tap into that "magic"—meditate for awhile on the benefits you would like for it to create: drink the water: then experience exactly the same benefits as the 'altered' water product would have produced.  If you need a 'prop' to trigger your mind's ability to create the health benefits attributed to 'altered'/'enhanced' water products, check out the Water Mandala site.  Free Water Mandalas are offered with the claim that exposure of water (or other beverage) to a special mandala image will produce water with exactly the same physical and energy characteristics and will produce exactly the same health benefits as a wide range of 'altered' or 'enhanced' water products.  An experimental design is also provided with details on how to compare the effects of the mandala-treated water with an 'enhanced'/'altered' water product to minimize bias.

Other pages on this site that related to this topic include: Evaluating Alkaline Water Claims and How to Identify Water Scams.  You might want to read pages 1 - 11 of the book, On Being a Scientist (free to read online) for an important description of the characteristics that define good, ethical science.  Those who develop and market 'enhanced'/'altered' water products almost never demonstrate these characteristics.  This story provides an interesting introduction to the history of "snake oil" products - it is a chapter in an online book, Placebo Medicine by Morgan Levy, M.D.  This site, maintained by a retired college chemistry professor, is devoted to exposing a huge number of specific scams and provides an excellent resource.  An episode of the Andy Griffith Show (Season 6 Episode 23: The Gypsies, Feb 21, 1966) is an amusing illustration of con artists at work.

Let me be clear too, that this discussion applies not only to 'enhanced'/'altered' water products but to ANY product or service that is sold to allegedly enhance health for which there is no valid supporting evidence - and there are thousands of such products sold on the Internet, in stores, in magazines, etc.  If any product makes claims for which you can't find good, independent supporting evidence be skeptical, do not make a quick choice (ignore any special offers you might miss or the alleged dire consequences of waiting).  Find someone like a science teacher who does not have a stake in selling the product and ask them to evaluate the claims for you.

I continue to ask a very simple, fundamental question that has never been satisfactorily answered by anyone I have talked with who markets or supports 'altered'/'enhanced' water products.  That question is: 
If your 'altered'/'enhanced' water product is actually more effective than a placebo and actually has ANY real, lasting health benefits (whether it is something fairly minor like increasing energy levels or a significant claim like curing cancer or diabetes), why have those who created the product not performed and published some quality, reproducible experiments that would conclusively demonstrate its effectiveness.  If the product's effectiveness were confirmed, the product would grab the attention of the scientific and medical communities, and more importantly the mass media.  People would be lining up by the thousands to purchase a real solution to a health problem that could have no negative side effects.

Ask that question to someone selling one of these products/services and see how many ways they can find to avoid answering the question or provide excuses to explain the complete lack of quality, supportive experiments.

Specific Examples of and References for 'Enhanced Water'

Reference below for:  Clustered/Structured Water  |  Homeopathic products  |  Placebo Effect  |  Digestion and water absorption  |  Aquaporins {water pores in cell membranes - RJ}

The examples below (and the claims quoted) are listed only as illustrations, and definitely DO NOT represent my endorsement of (or belief in the value of) the products!  Also, despite trying to find examples that would be fairly stable in their presence and claims over the years, there have been considerable changes - I have attempted to document any changes I notice.

Clustered and Structured Water:

Penta Water - I'll start with one specific brand of 'altered' water because It was probably the first 'altered'/'enhanced' water product I paid any attention to after I started my website.  I actually listened to an early promotional cassette tape in the late 90s that consisted of an interview with the 'creator' of the water.  In my opinion, the interview was a very clever mix of truth, nonsense, and truth used in the wrong way (that is, true statements used improperly to support a particular point).

Unfortunately, I no longer have the tape (If anyone reading this has access to this tape, I would be extremely interesting in getting a copy and compare original claims with those made today).  The actual claims of the process and effects of Penta Water have changed significantly over the years.  Several years ago (and still listed on a bottled water information site) the 'energizing' process was high energy sound waves, now apparently, on the company website, it's spinning the water that creates the 'magic'.

2013 claims on the company website:
"Penta's revolutionary, patented 13-step, 11-hour filtration and purification process includes spinning our water under high speed and pressure (cavitation). This extra step produces smaller, more readily absorbed water clusters, providing advanced hydration. Penta is the only bottled water that uses patented physics, not chemicals, to produce the purest water available..."

"Penta Water is ultra purified, energized water that not only fully hydrates, but may also help increase antioxidant activity in your body.  During the last decade, The Penta Water Company has received numerous reports from consumers regarding the positive effects of drinking Penta.  These various comments include references to feelings of more energy, a greater sense of well-being, and even improved appearance of skin.  Penta Water is first cleaned using a state of the art purification system to remove all impurities.  ...No other bottled water is as pure! 
The water then goes through the patented Penta process which spins the water at high speed and pressure for 11 hours, and as a result increases antioxidant activity."

2013 product claims on the bottled water website include:

"Penta also undergoes a patented physics process using high-energy sound waves that gives Penta many unique properties.  This proprietary technology, known as the Penta Process, actually changes the structure of the water.  Penta is the only bottled water that uses physics, not chemicals, to restructure its water.  The water is cycled through the Penta Process until a specific set point of thermal energy is released for approximately 7-8 hours."

"Proof that Penta is restructured water: Penta has been shown through highly technical scientific testing (Raman spectroscopy) to have 30 percent smaller molecular water clusters.  It has also been observed that Penta has a higher boiling point and higher viscosity than normal water.  Penta's unique structure is also patented and has been verified in a published, peer-reviewed study conducted by scientists at Moscow's General Physics Institute."

"Research has shown that Penta water's unique properties provide the following benefits:
* In-vitro studies show an increase in cell survivability by 266%.
* In-vitro studies show that Penta water dissolves calcium oxalate monohydrate (the main substance in 85% of kidney stones) three times faster than normal water.
* In-vitro studies on human cells reveal that lab distilled water DNA chromosomal mutation rates were 271% greater than Penta water.

In addition, countless Penta drinkers have told us that, by effectively hydrating, they look and feel more youthful, energetic and all around better."

Some related links that I hope will continue working: Testing the water (better hydration), Boiling points (higher boiling point) Penta Tonics (performance claims) by Ben Goldacre

The James Randi Educational Foundation had in their archives an interesting discussion on Penta Water's, decision to try for the Foundation's 1 million dollar challenge by proving their 'energized' water causes seeds to germinate faster than using regular water.  The articles described the Foundation's attempts to persuade the company to continue the challenge after they got cold feet.  Unfortunately I just checked (2013) and the links to the original exchange no longer work.  That's too bad, because they illustrate a common pattern, where the manufacturer of a pseudoscientific-based product is eager to gain scientific credentials (and in this case win a million dollars) until it becomes obvious that real science demands real evidence of effectiveness - at that point the backpedaling and excused begin.

2015 update: These exchanges have been retrieved from the Internet Wayback Machine,,, (about 3/4 of the way down), (about 1/2 of the way down) and ( just over 1/2 of the way down).  For convenience, the relevant content has been consolidated here.

Zunami:  Another type of clustered water is a concentrate, no less. 
Just add one ounce of concentrated water to one gallon of unconcentrated water... 
'Science' according to Zunami™ bottled water:

"Zunami is highly purified water that has been raised to a high level of electromagnetic power through a proprietary process. It is designed to restructure water into hexagonally organized bio-molecular clusters(a), providing better intracellular water exchange (hydration at a cellular level).

In the human body, there are two basic types of water (biowater): Bound water and Clustered Water. Clustered Water(tm) is able to move freely through the cell walls(b) and is necessary to transport nutrients, remove waste, and maintain proper communication between the cells.  Bound water, on the other hand, is water that becomes physically bound to other molecular structures and is unable to move freely through the cell walls(c).  When we are young, our bodies contain a high level of this remarkable water and very little bound water.  However, as we age, bound water becomes more predominant and free water levels decrease, hindering the effectiveness of literally thousands of metabolic functions and causing significant structural changes in our body’s tissues."

Zunami™ is highly purified water that has been raised to a high level of electromagnetic power through a proprietary process, the result is Hexa Structured Water™ (HSW).  It is this restructuring that makes these products so effective in accelerated hydration through enhanced mobility.  The process begins with extremely pure distilled water and, while it is exposed to special lasers and extremely strong magnetic fields to create stable water "clusters".  The process is designed to structure the water molecules into clusters that are very mobile, therefore entering the cell system very rapidly and replenishing inter-cellular water. (d)"

That's a real bargain at only $39.95 for a concentrate that produces 8 gallons of HSW - Never mind the company has the biology completely backwards and uses impossible physics.  In truth:
a) Water simply does NOT form stable clusters unless it is frozen - liquid, water forms very transitory clusters that do not remain stable or have any known/demonstrated biological effects.
Besides the fact that our cells have membranes (not walls), water clusters cannot move freely into cells - water moves through cell membranes as single molecules.
The text above makes "bound water" seem like a problem.  However, water that is bound to proteins and other macro molecules in the cell is necessary for them to function properly. 
There is no shred of evidence provided to validate any of the claims made - either the alleged clustering process or any beneficial health effects.

PiMag Water Treatment:  I can not find anything on the sites below that describes how the magnetic or far-infrared technologies of Nikken's water system actually works.  From what I can tell, it is mostly a carbon block filter - and a very expensive one at that (over $900 with shipping), with very expensive replacement filters.  I could not discover the pore size, but from the contaminants removed, I would expect it would be 1 micron or smaller.  My ideas about the additional 'altering' of the water by the other elements of the filter would fall into the discussion above..

The references below are listed for information only, and definitely DO NOT represent my endorsement of (or belief in the value of) this product! - RJ

2003 product description

Nikken PiMag™ Water System Discovered near a small town in Japan more than 30 years ago, pi water is called "the water of life" by scientists. Created by natural mineral deposits and negative ions, pi water has been duplicated in the laboratory — and the result is the Nikken PiMag Water System. This system has highly sophisticated filtration technology. But it is more than a filter. Special pi ceramics from deep-sea coral reflect far-infrared energy — sometimes called the "wavelength of life." The water flows through a magnetic field to complete the process. With the PiMag Water System, delicious water is available instantly, whenever you turn the tap. And because it is right from your faucet, it's more convenient and less expensive than bottled water. Best of all, it's PiMag water - the water of life. Available only from Nikken.

Nikken PiMag™ Optimizer II The Nikken PiMag Optimizer II is specifically designed to produce water your body needs. The Optimizer features a pi ring of special coral that comes from the deep ocean. This ring contains calcium carbonate, a mineral used in Japan as a natural way to modify water's acid/alkaline balance. Powerful rotating magnets produce a complex magnetic field, and the vortex action adds oxygen. In minutes, you have optimized water for drinking, cooking, any use. Those who try it report that it tastes "lighter" and more refreshing than ordinary water. Find out how good your drinking water can be!

PiMag Water System: "Pi water was originally discovered by Japanese scientists in the 1970s. Observation had suggested that the water from an isolated hillside stream had a remarkable effect on the plant life in the area. The scientists examined the environment and found that it contained an unusual collection of topographical features. The surrounding hills contained magnetite and calcium. The watercourse flowed over silicates, the material that forms natural crystal. The water from it was found to have an atypical combination of minerals, and was naturally alkaline. This alkalinity helps to balance the acidic diet and stress-induced acidity that is commonly experienced in modern life. Duplicating these conditions in the laboratory resulted in a form of this “pi water.” Magnetic technology was added, as a magnetic field assists in conditioning water without adding salt or other chemicals. (2015 quote)"

2009 update: Nikken, like Penta Water, has toned down the rhetoric on its corporate site over the past few years and now provides very few details on the processes involved in producing PiMag water.

One way to determine the actual performance of a product is to look at the independent certification.  NSF certification of the Nikken water system.
Type Nikken into the 'MANUFACTURER' search box and clicked on 'Search by Manufacturer'.  For an $800 investment I would expect a product that was certified to be far more effective than this.

The results in 2009 for the $800 Pi-Mag 13151 and the $600 Pi-Mag 13155 systems were:
Standard 42 - Aesthetic Effects
   Chlorine Reduction, Class I
   Nominal Particulate Reduction, Class I
   Taste and Odor Reduction
Standard 53 - Health Effects
   Cyst Reduction
   Lead Reduction
   MTBE Reduction
   Turbidity Reductionion
   VOC Reduction

2013 update: Nikken has discontinued the $600 & $800 systems above, and now offers a $56 PiMag sports bottle and shower system and a PiMag Waterfall water filter ($385) that seems to be a glorified pitcher filter containing some rocks and a magnet.  I could no longer find any NSF certification for contaminant reduction. 



There are two fundamental problems with homeopathy that prevent the scientific community from recognizing it as a legitimate treatment method:

  1. No theories exist to explain how high dilutions might capture and retain the 'memory' of some active substance and transmit that information to cells in the body causing a measurable effect.
  2. Reliable evidence is lacking that demonstrates homeopathy is more effective than a placebo at treating health problems.  Research papers have been published in alternative medicine journals that appear to demonstrate the effectiveness of homeopathy, but studies that are carefully designed to minimize biases (by the investigators and subjects) fail to show effects that are different from placebos.

My Day with the Homeopaths - Part I - by Steven Novella
"Yesterday I took part in a panel discussion titled, A Debate: Homeopathy - Quackery Or A Key To The Future of Medicine? hosted by the University of Connecticut Medical Center.  You might think that the title is a bit of a false dichotomy, but in this case it is accurate, for the two sides of this debate occupied far ends of the belief spectrum with a wide gulf between us."

"After my presentation on the extreme scientific implausibility of homeopathy, materials scientist Rustum Roy presented his completely unconvincing case for its plausibility.  His strategy was to argue that the only significant scientific objection to homeopathy (other than the blind bias, prejudice, “homeophobia” - his term, and materialistic assumptions of scientists) is that homeopathic water does not contain any molecules of active ingredient.  However, he argues, the key to material function is not composition but structure, so we should be looking at the structure of water and not what is in it..."

My Day with the Homeopaths - Part II - by Steven Novella
"Donald Marcus from Baylor did an excellent job of presenting a review of the clinical evidence for homeopathy, accurately conveying that the evidence is largely negative.  Iris Bell, a protege of Andrew Weil from the University of Arizona, had the job of distorting and cherry picking the clinical evidence to make is seem as if it supports homeopathy. Her strategy was typical, standard fare for CAM proponents."

"First, she argued that we should accept clinical observations as reliable evidence.  These are open-label or uncontrolled case reports, essentially the clinical experience of homeopaths.  This is all a fancy way of saying anecdotal evidence, which over a century of scientific medicine has taught us is completely unreliable.  I think anecdotes are worse than unreliable - they tend to lead us to conclusions we wish to be true rather than those that are true, and they can cause a false sense of confidence in the unwary."

One of the more notorious examples of the apparent validation of Homeopathic claims was a 1988 paper published in Nature that appeared to support the homeopathic claim that water can retain a memory of substances that were once dissolved in it:  E. Dayenas et. al. Human basophil degranulization triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE. Nature. 1988 Jun 30;333(6176):816-8.  "The latter can be demonstrated at dilutions of anti-IgE that range from 1 x 10(2) to 1 x 10(120); over that range, there are successive peaks of degranulation from 40 to 60% of the basophils, despite the calculated absence of any anti-IgE molecules at the highest dilutions.  Since dilutions need to be accompanied by vigorous shaking for the effects to be observed, transmission of the biological information could be related to the molecular organization of water."

The response from the scientific community was immediate and skeptical, and many subsequent efforts to duplicate the study have failed. The episode is described here, here, and here.
According to this review, "Further experiments carried out by Benveniste's team, in double-blind conditions overseen by Maddox, magician and pseudo-science debunker James Randi and fraud investigator Walter Stewart, failed to verify the original results."

BBC Horizon show tries to win James Randi's 1 million dollar challenge in 2002 by proving homeopathy works. History & challenge; YouTube (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5) Transcript of the event; Q&A with James Randi.  Note: This challenge was not actually about testing the effectiveness of homeopathy - it explored a claim that high dilutions of a substance (the foundation of homeopathic theory) had some measurable effects.

Dr. Ben Goldacre weighs in on homeopathy.

Searches on Homeopathy-related articles from edu sites and from .gov sites.


The Placebo Effect 

Doctors in one study successfully eliminated warts by painting them with a brightly colored, inert dye and promising patients the warts would be gone when the color wore off.  In a study of asthmatics, researchers found that they could produce dilation of the airways by simply telling people they were inhaling a bronchiodilator, even when they weren't.  Patients suffering pain after wisdom-tooth extraction got just as much relief from a fake application of ultrasound as from a real one, so long as both patient and therapist thought the machine was on.  Fifty-two percent of the colitis patients treated with placebo in 11 different trials reported feeling better -- and 50 percent of the inflamed intestines actually looked better when assessed with a sigmoidoscope ("The Placebo Prescription" by Margaret Talbot, New York Times Magazine, January 9, 2000).

Forty years ago, a young Seattle cardiologist named Leonard Cobb conducted a unique trial of a procedure then commonly used for angina, in which doctors made small incisions in the chest and tied knots in two arteries to try to increase blood flow to the heart.  It was a popular technique -- 90 percent of patients reported that it helped -- but when Cobb compared it with placebo surgery in which he made incisions but did not tie off the arteries, the sham operations proved just as successful.  The procedure, known as internal mammary ligation, was soon abandoned ("The Placebo Prescription" by Margaret Talbot, New York Times Magazine, January 9, 2000).
{Excellent description, discussion, and examples - RJ}

Placebo effects - Background:  The benefits of therapeutic interventions in clinical practice are often enhanced by placebo effects.  Placebo effects can be defined as the positive physiological or psychological changes associated with the use of inert medications, sham procedures, or therapeutic symbols within a healthcare encounter.  Placebos can also be active substances or real procedures that produce unexpected beneficial effects.  For example, antibiotics may be considered placebos when prescribed for viral respiratory illnesses that are not expected to respond to antibiotic action.  Placebo effects may also be viewed as a subset of a larger group of mind-brain-body effects such as the psycho-physiological effects of religious beliefs and devotional practices, meditation, faith-based healing, hypnosis, and the effects of cultural and social economic systems on the prevalence and severity of specific diseases.

These effects have been scientifically documented by an increasing body of research.  Mind-brain-body effects, including placebo effects, are not fully appreciated in contemporary medicine. {the article continues with an interesting description of the effect}

How People Are Fooled by Ideomotor Action - Ideomotor Action: The "influence of suggestion in modifying and directing muscular movement, independently of volition" - an interesting phenomenon related to the placebo effect.  This article describes experiments that show how a person's beliefs and expectations affect how their muscles behave.

More here - Without Volition: The Presence and Purpose of Ideomotor Movement - Ideomotor action is referred to as "mischief-making" because its unrecognized presence is actually the reason movement occurs in activities such as dowsing, the play with the Ouija board and "facilitated communication."  In fact, any activity in which movement is thought to be caused by forces that transcend our senses or are described as metaphysical in nature should be suspected to begin with movement that we don't consciously plan.  The word volition is especially important to this concept. Defined as "the power of choosing; the act of making a choice or decision; willful," volition is subtly different than simple reflexive activity thought not to include the higher centers of the brain. And, like a simple reflex, ideomotor movement occurs instinctively, though it is often far more complex and always without volition. This is the primary reason those doing it do not commonly take responsibility for its manifestation or consequence. We suppose ourselves to be consciously in control of our movement for the most part, and it is difficult to convince people otherwise under ordinary circumstances.

The Mysterious Placebo - One of the most significant but widely misunderstood phenomena is the placebo effect.  Research shows that the placebo effect can be greater and is far more ubiquitous than commonly thought. More articles about the Placebo from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI).  The CSI mission is to promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims.

From Placebo to Homeopathy: The Fear of the Irrational.  The placebo effect is a perfect illustration of scientific exorcism of a disturbing fact (Dimitri Viza, The Scientist, Sep. 1998).  Although its existence has been established beyond doubt, all efforts are directed not toward studying its mechanisms, but to subtracting its interference.

Scientific Framework of the Placebo Effect, by Gershom Zajicek, The Cancer Journal - Vol10:5
The placebo effect is "any dummy medical treatment; originally, a medicinal preparation having no specific pharmacological activity against the patient's illness..."  This definition summarizes the attitude of modern medicine to a placebo: a useless and undesired side-effect of treatment.  Which is unfortunate, since a placebo promotes healing.  It may relieve pain, e.g., headache, and even modify the course of an illness.  However, medicine regards it as a sham treatment, tainted with deception.  Placebo is Latin for "I shall please", and was used in the past to please the patient.  Even as late as 1950, catalogs for physicians carried long arrays of pills labeled "Placebo".  All this has now vanished and placebo as such is not used.

An ethical issue to consider as you research the Placebo Effect - If a product or treatment is shown to have some actual health benefits caused entirely by the placebo effect is it ethical to market the product or treatment as having a health benefit that's caused by smaller clusters, more energetic water molecules, different bond angles, water memory or some other completely unproven process with no scientific credibility or evidence?

Searches on placebo-related articles from edu sites and from .gov sites.


Water Absorption:

Absorption of Water and Electrolytes: The small intestine must absorb massive quantities of water.  A normal person or animal of similar size takes in roughly 1 to 2 liters of dietary fluid every day.  On top of that, another 6 to 7 liters of fluid is received by the small intestine daily as secretions from salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, liver and the small intestine itself.

Water and nutrient absorption: "An important function of both small intestine and colon is the absorption of water and electrolytes.  Approximately 2000 ml of food and drink is ingested daily, and the volume of gastrointestinal secretions (salivary, gastric, biliary, pancreatic and intestinal) is about 8,000 ml daily; therefore, approximately 10 liters of fluid enters the intestine each day. Of the 8 liters secreted, about 1-1.5 liters enter as saliva, 2-3 liters are secreted by the stomach, about 2 liters enter as bile and pancreatic secretion (about 1 liter each), and about 2 liters are secreted by the small intestine.  (Please note that these figures are approximate, not absolute. Volumes may vary, depending on experimental method and conditions.)"

"Of the 10 liters which enters the gut each day, only about 1 liter passes into the colon, about 90% having been absorbed across the small intestinal epithelium.  Only about 150 ml is lost in the feces daily, with the remainder being absorbed by the colon.  It should be obvious that any derangement in intestinal fluid absorption would profoundly influence the balance of fluid and electrolytes in the body, and that the normal functioning of the intestines plays a significant role in regulating water and electrolyte balance.  The net absorption or net secretion of water in the intestine is the result of bidirectional movements of water from mucosa to serosa (m-->s flux or absorption) and from serosa to mucosa (s-->m flux or secretion).  In the human intestine, these unidirectional fluxes exceed net movement 2-3 fold.  The rate and direction of net fluid movement depend on tonicity of the meal, and move toward the achievement of isotonicity {equal concentration of water on both sides of a membrane - RJ}.

"The intestinal mucosal surface consists of a bimolecular lipid membrane, which (presumably) contains small pores or channels.  Water and water-soluble substances can hypothetically enter the cell through these pores only, while lipid-soluble substrates can directly cross the lipid cell membrane.  Specialized protein pores, referred to as aquaporins (AQP) have been identified in many tissues, including colon epithelium; water channel isoforms in small intestinal epithelium remain to be discovered. Intestinal absorption of water is a passive process and requires movement of solutes.  Water accompanies solute and moves across the intestinal mucosa in response to osmotic gradients.  The rate of water uptake in any region of the intestine is a function of solute absorption in this region. "

"All areas of the intestines (including small bowel and colon) absorb water, the relative amounts absorbed depending on the presence of solutes {things dissolved in water, sodium, calcium, sugar, etc. - RJ}, and the types of solutes present.  In the jejunum, the active transport of sugars and amino acids causes passive movement of salt and water, which accounts for most of the water uptake in this area. In the ileum, most water movement is accounted for by active sodium transport.  As described in Johnson (Gastrointestinal Physiology), coupled water and sodium transport involves a specialized mechanism that pumps sodium into the lateral spaces, resulting in relatively high osmotic pressure in that region.  Water then enters the lateral space from the cell (transcellular flux) and--perhaps--the lumen (paracellular flux), reducing the osmotic pressure but increasing the hydrostatic pressure.  Fluid is then forced out of the lateral space into the interstitial space.  The net effect is that isotonic fluid is transported from the lumen into the extracellular fluid."


Aquaporins - the perfect water filters of the cell 
Aquaporins are water channel proteins; they are located in the otherwise water impermeable cell membrane of many plants and animals.  There they prevent bursting of the cells, e.g., due to changes of the exterior salt concentration (osmotic regulation).  In humans, aquaporins regulate the water flux in the kidney, red blood cells, the eye lens, and the brain, to name just a few..... ***  The structure showed that the protein forms a channel in the membrane that is 2 nanometers (billionth meter) long and 0.3 nanometers wide, just large enough for water molecules to fit through, such that permeation of larger molecules is prevented.***

Aquaporins are proteins embedded in the cell membrane that regulate the flow of water.  They are "the plumbing system for cells."  Aquaporins are integral membrane proteins from a larger family of major intrinsic proteins (MIP) that form pores in the membrane of biological cells.

Aquaporins: Water Channels - Water crosses cell membranes by two routes: by diffusion through the lipid bilayer and through water channels called aquaporins.  Functional characterization of the first aquaporin was reported in 1992, but water channels were suspected to exist well before that time, because the osmotic permiability of some types of epithelial cells was much too large to be accounted for by simple diffusion through the plasma membrane.  A single human aquaporin-1 channel facilitates water transport at a rate of roughly 3 billion water molecules per second.  Such transport appears to be bidirectional, in accordance with the prevailing osmotic gradient.

Question & Answer 1

In these question and answer sections, the original questions are preserved along with the answers, because they provide a window into how the average consumer perceives these 'enhanced'/'altered' water products.


I enjoyed your website about water.

I am looking for the best home water system and have run across a couple of interesting things.
First, I've heard that reverse osmosis renders water "dead" and can leach calcium from the consumer's bones.  There is a system that uses technology used in Japan for 30 years that uses a magnetic field and Far Red light spectrum.  I've tried a small cup of this water and it was amazing.  The product is from Nikken (I think).
I've been trying to research water systems for about 3 or 4 months now and wondered if you've heard about this and have any thoughts about negative aspects.  It seems that if water molecules are broken down into microclusters -- through magnets or electricity, the body is better able to utilize the water.  I've tried the Royal Body Care microcluster liquid, and that seemed to help a bit with hydration.  I've tried the Penta Water also, but the water is run through reverse osmosis - twice.
I'd appreciate any insight.

Answer 1

Hi Margaret

I am glad you enjoyed my website.

Your questions actually fall into three categories:

  1. the alleged positive alteration or enhancement of water structure &/or energy (apart from standard purification methods) that results in beneficial health effects.
  2. the alleged negative alteration of water by certain treatment methods (usually distillation, reverse osmosis or municipal water treatment - sometimes even filtration), and the alleged negative health effects due to the altering of the water's structure or 'energy'.
  3. the 'alleged leaching' of minerals out of the body by highly purified water (usually by Reverse Osmosis, Deionization or Distillation (RDD)).  A corollary to that argument is that drinking RDD water is bad because the 'good minerals' critical to health (usually Calcium and Magnesium) are removed.  I cover this in another discussion about the health effects of drinking distilled water.

I guess the easiest way to approach the topic of alleged health benefits of 'altered' water is to ask - What criteria would you, personally, accept as validation of the claims for a particular product??
Criteria a) Your own experience with the product.
Criteria b) The word of someone you know who experienced the product.
Criteria c) A celebrity endorsement or the word of a sales person.
Criteria d) A discussion on a website or in a book that lists the experiences of many people who used that product - Would it make a difference if the person making the claims has some higher degree (PhD, MD, DC, etc.) after his/her name?
Criteria e) A peer reviewed paper* in a medical or scientific journal that has looked at the blinded or double blinded** effects of the product on a large number of people and compared the measured effects to those from a control group of people who used a similar, but presumably inactive, mimic of the product being tested (a placebo).  A cross-over component can also be added where the treatment is switched during the study (again the subjects and perhaps the experimenters unaware of the switch).

Back to top

* A peer reviewed paper means that a group of other experts in the field have examined the paper and agreed that proper methodology has been used and that valid conclusions have been reported. 

** A Blinded study means that the people in the experiment (the subjects) do NOT know whether they have been using the test product or the placebo.  This is a critical element of a successful experiment, when possible, because it minimizes the very real 'placebo effect'.  If a person thinks they are taking or doing something that "is supposed to be good for them" that beneficial effect can actually be measured - even though they have taken an inactive material or done something that should not have any effect.  In a blinded study the experimenters do know which treatment the subjects were given.  Since the experimenters know the treatment (and usually have some bias toward the outcome), they can actually unconsciously influence the outcome of the experiment by inadvertently passing subtle clues about the treatment to the subjects, selecting specific data to analyze or introducing bias into the analysis.

A Double Blinded study means that neither the scientists administering the experiment and analyzing the data nor the the subjects know whether the subjects have been using the test product or the placebo.  A double blind study minimizes the possibility that the study results could be biased by the knowledge of the experimenters or the analysis team regarding which treatment the subjects were given.  Scientists typically do an experiment because they want to demonstrate that their theory (about a treatment for a specific disease, for example) is correct.  They are frequently very passionate about their theory and have invested a lot of time and money in developing the theory and designing the study.  They want it to work.... and they are human!  Consequently if those in charge of the experiment know which treatment is given to which subjects, there is the possibility that their desires for a specific outcome could unconsciously influence the way data was collected, analyzed, and ultimately reported.

Back to top
This site provides a detailed procedure you can use to compare the effectiveness of products while minimizing bias.

A summary of a blinded experiment to test claims for 'altered' or 'enhanced' water would involve giving one group of subjects 'altered' water over a period of time and giving the control group the same amount of purified but not 'altered' water (without either the subjects or the experimenters knowing who is getting what).  All product claims (more energy, better hydration, etc.) would be carefully measured and recorded for each group.

After several weeks, the water would be switched (without the subjects or experimenters knowing when) and measurements would continue. After the experiment was completed, the results would be tabulated and a preliminary analysis made of the measured outcomes.  Finally, the results would be unblinded and fully analyzed (blinding during the preliminary analysis phase minimizes any unconscious bias on the part of the statistician).  If there were real, beneficial health effects of the 'altered' water, the data would ONLY show real, positive differences in the results recorded when the subjects drank the 'altered' water.

To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a peer reviewed paper published in ANY medical or scientific journal that conclusively validates ANY of the physical or health claims made by the proponents of ANY of the various types of 'altered' water.  Although an occasional supportive paper have been published, the conclusions have not been supported by subsequent studies - see below.

Companies selling 'altered'/'enhanced' water usually support their claims with variations of criteria (a), (b), (c), or (d) above.  These are examples of Anecdotal Evidence or Testimonials.  You are basically taking someone's word that a product is effective (or relying on your own experience). 

Anecdotal evidence is not necessarily false or bad (in fact that is probably how most valid scientific theories got started), but with anecdotal evidence there is no way to determine whether the experienced effect was caused by the product, by chance, or because of an expectation of what the product should do - the placebo effect described below.

When health claims are made for expensive products with nothing but anecdotal evidence to support the claims, I am extremely skeptical.  There is absolutely no enforced regulation of ANY of the claims made by these 'altered' water companies beyond those imposed on "normal" bottled water.  The companies are usually very careful to state that "They do not make any claims that the product treats or cures a specific disease condition".  If they made such claims, they would be regulated by the FDA and would be required to provide scientific proof of the claims.

The companies typically follow that disclaimer, however, by stating "look what it has done for all these people" - and then let the anecdotal health claims "speak for themselves".

There are papers published in alternative health journals that seem to support health claims of some 'altered' water products.  These journals are biased toward non-traditional treatment methods.  That is not a bad thing, necessarily, but one important characteristic of good science is that the results of a study can be reproduced by anyone at any time whether they are skeptical of the outcome or biased toward it — that is why blinding is so important.  Blinding minimizes bias in either direction.

The mainstream scientific and medical communities pretty much ignore experimental evidence found in papers published by alternative health journals because historically the studies easily demonstrate biases of the researcher and are lacking in controls to minimize the biases.  That is usually not the case if the claims are published in a mainstream scientific or medical journal.  The scientific community will typically respond very quickly with a careful dissection of the study methods, results, analyses, and conclusions and then attempt to duplicate the study.

Back to top

Mainstream scientific journals (which are skeptical toward 'altered' water claims) publish very few papers that seem to validate 'altered' water product claims.  No published 'altered' water claims have been validated by later studies, to my knowledge.
One of the more notorious examples a mainstream journal that published a paper supporting 'altered' water claims is a 1988 paper in Nature that appeared to support the homeopathic claim that water can retain a memory of substances that were once dissolved .
The episode is described here.

Two arguments are typically used to explain why research from developers and promoters of 'altered' water products is not found in mainstream scientific and medical journals:

  1. Mainstream scientists do not understand our work and are biased against our findings.  The scientific community is closed, unwilling to consider new ideas, and our work will never be published regardless of how good it is.
  2. Clinical trials are very expensive.  Many alternative products with great potential are developed by small companies that do not have the resources to conduct a study that will demonstrate the effectiveness of an alternative product to the satisfaction of the scientific community.

Neither excuse is convincing:

  1. Science thrives on new ideas and theories.  A discovery that the structure of water could be altered in some way to provide positive health effects and no negative side effects would be a huge discovery - front page, Nobel-worthy news.  The only catch is that any researcher in any country must be able to duplicate the methods and obtain the same results - and that has never been done for research on pseudoscientific subjects.
  2. The alternative health community apparently has never heard of venture capital.  A small, carefully designed blinded trial using a few dozen people that could demonstrate a significant positive effect of an 'altered'/'enhanced' water product (and provide a legitimate scientific explanation of how it worked) would have investors lining up to fund a large study.  The James Randi foundation has offered a one million dollar challenge since 1996 to any group or individual that could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria. 

    Since 'enhanced' water claims have no scientific basis, the foundation has offered several 'enhanced' water companies, including Penta Water, the million dollar prize if they could demonstrate that their product worked as advertised.  The companies were free to create their own experimental design and establish ANY outcome results and testing methods they chose - they only had to demonstrate that their product produced a significantly different outcome from the control group in a truly blinded and controlled study---there have been no successful challengers...

    It is interesting to read reports from those who thought they might, in fact, be able to win the money only to fail during the initial trials or back out once they discovered that while they could design the experiment to test any claim in any way they wanted, they had to allow conditions that would detect or prevent cheating - even unconscious cheating.  At that point, when their illusions could no longer be maintained during the tests, the challenge became unfair. 

    The financial rewards to a company that developed a proven, safe, inexpensive 'enhanced' water product that met all criteria for scientific acceptance and provided a significant health benefit (that was different than the benefit of drinking untreated water) would be enormous.

The truth is, companies that manufacture and market 'enhanced'/'altered' water products are not interested in performing experiments that will withstand skeptical scrutiny — most probably because they can't, but why bother even trying when people purchase their product anyway and report benefits. 

Scientists believe the claims of 'altered'/'enhanced' water products to be non-issues - not worth bothering with, and are usually not willing to invest the time and money required to test the claims (the exception, as noted above, is when a paper supporting alternative water claims is published in a mainstream journal).  Companies marketing the 'altered' water frequently state that scientific evidence is available to back their claims.  Be skeptical and try to actually locate and read the paper that supports the claim. If there is no link provided, ask the company for a copy of the paper, and (if you ever receive it) take it to a local science teacher to get an opinion from someone who is not trying to sell you the product.

There is an additional complication in trying to assess the effectiveness of certain products that claim to produce health benefits, the Placebo Effect.  The placebo effect is the observation that a person's expectation of how a product will work can sometimes cause the expected result even if the actual treatment was never administered.  For example, a sugar pill given as a pain reliever to someone with arthritis might cause a reduction of pain in some individuals.

It ironic that the scientific and medical communities understand and study the placebo effect but usually treat it as a nuisance that complicates "real" scientific experiments to test "real drugs" that may be proven more effective than the placebo - but often come with serious side effects.

The alternative health community, on the other hand, embraces (and exploits) the fact that the mind, with a little guidance to stimulate belief and expectation, is often able to produce real relief for many health conditions. Unfortunately, belief and expectation, no matter how positive, do not always heal, and a delay in seeking medical therapy with proven, effective medical treatments can lead to serious health problems.

There are several interesting debates in the scientific community regarding the ethics of doctor prescribed placebos (also) and of the use of placebos in clinical trials (also) when effective non-placebo alternatives are available.

Back to top

You mentioned that you have had positive experiences with several of these 'altered' waters.  Is it possible that your positive experiences could have been 'colored' by your expectations of what the water would/should do?  If you have access to some of these water types, you can do some double blinded experimenting on your own (neither you nor the person giving you the water samples would know which water you were drinking - and thus 'what to expect' from the water).

If you get together a small group of interested people, you might at least be able to test the idea (or hypothesis) that a person can tell by 'how they feel' if they are drinking 'altered' water or 'normal' water - the taste of the water would have to be very similar though.  This page provided a good outline of how to test and compare the effects of different products without introducing bias.

Can water be killed - Is there such a thing as living water?

In answer to the claims that reverse osmosis (or distillation) renders water "dead" - I would generally use the same arguments as above.  I have never heard of any 'vital force' being attributed to water (by scientists, anyway).  Pure water will have a molecular structure of H2O and will be utilized equally well by the body regardless of treatment methods used.  It simply does not matter whether water is treated by traditional purification technologies (filtration, distillation, RO, etc.) or by pseudo-scientific treatments, the structure, energy and behavior of the water molecules will be identical.  I discuss the topic of water treated with distillation and reverse osmosis on this page.

I hope this helps. If you have any further questions, let me know..

Question 2 & Answer


Wow, thank you for taking your time to answer my questions so thoroughly.  You have given me more to think about. I'm looking for water that can hydrate, as I feel dehydrated.  In Kentucky, I was able to get Highbridge Water and actually visited the source and the bottling facility located in a cave.  It was run through reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light and seemed to hydrate pretty well.

The Penta Water hydrates a bit better, but is currently cost prohibitive to drink daily.  I had no expectations when I drank water from the Nikken System and was skeptical.  I was given 3 samples of different waters, and the Nikken water seemed like what my body was craving.  I will follow your advise and see if I can obtain some scientific research on it.
For such an essential thing that we need to sustain life, the best drinking water is so elusive. I've learned over the years that just because something is put on a shelf in a store or on the market that it's not necessarily safe.

Thank you for your continued pursuit of the answers and for sharing your knowledge so freely.


Answer 2:

Hi Margaret

I take the time to answer people who have questions in part because I am troubled by the rampant miss-information campaigns I see, not only on the internet, but in stores and in all the media.  A good proportion of the marketing campaigns seem to be designed exclusively to separate people from their money.

If you constantly feel dehydrated despite drinking plenty of water, there may be some physical problem causing the feeling rather than the type of water you are drinking.  I am not a physician, so I won't even hazard a guess, but I thought I'd bring that up as a possibility to consider. 

Again, I encourage you to try some blinded tests over several day's of drinking various types of water to see if you can really tell the difference in the way the water hydrates your body in the absence of ANY clues as to which type of water you are drinking.  It may be difficult to set up a truly blinded test though because, depending on the type or treatment and the materials left in (or removed from) the water samples - calcium, air, other trace minerals, etc. - the taste alone can provide clues to the type of water you are drinking. 

Even the faintest hint of a suggestion about what to expect can subtly influence the mind to interpret subsequent events a particular way.

For example, in your experience with Nikken Pi Mag water, did the sales representative walk in, immediately offer you three identical-looking glasses of water to drink (with absolutely no comments or explanations about what the samples were or what you might experience), turn away while you sampled them (to not inadvertently give clues) and then ask you to record your impressions about each glass of water - again with no prompting about what you were drinking or what kinds of impressions to be thinking about?

That would be the ONLY way to reduce the possibility (probability) that the sales presentation influenced the outcome of the "test" - but then sales people are usually VERY interested in influencing the outcome of a demonstration!  I suspect the stage was carefully set by the sales person so you knew exactly what each glass contained and what you were supposed to experience.

The response (unconscious usually) of the mind to the 'power of suggestion' can not be over-emphasized - that's why some sales people are so effective, and why experimental studies are so difficult to set up - the experimenters, the subjects, and even the analysis team can be subtly and unconsciously influenced by the minds' expectations.

An important part of the scientific review process I mentioned in my previous letter is to try to discover if expectations about the outcome of a study had any influence on how the scientists set up the study and recorded, analyzed, or interpreted the data. As one of the articles below mentions, "even the course of an illness" can be affected by the mind's ability to modify the body's response to an event (again, the placebo effect).

In the case of the "test" where you sampled Nikken Pi Mag water, any of the situations outlined below would be more than enough to predispose your mind to accept a particular sample as "better than" the others.

In the discussion below, situations 1 and/or 2 ' would set the stage' for the mind to be thinking about the great things that will happen when the Nikken water is sampled.

  1. If the Nikken representative was pleasant, confident, and seemed to be extremely knowledgeable about his/her product and the way the body absorbs and metabolizes water.
  2. If there was ANY DISCUSSION before you actually sampled the water about the treatment process, the benefits of the treated water and/or what was "supposed to happen" when the Nikken water was sampled.

Then, with a positive expectation, any knowledge about the identity of a sample (situations 3 and/or 4), no matter how slight, can allow a difference in the samples to be "detected".

  1. If you saw the water samples prepared.
  2. If there were ANY comments or hints made during the sampling, like "now, don't you feel great after that sample". It probably wouldn't be that blatant, but even subtle body language or an "expectant look" can give a hint as to the expected response to a sample. That's why double blinded experiments, where neither the experimenter nor the subject knows which treatment is given, are so important.

Back to top

Anyway, I wanted to reiterate my current thoughts and concerns on the subject of 'altered' water.  To the best of my knowledge (and the water chemists I have contacted), as far as the body is concerned, water is water!  You will want to drink pure, safe water, but I have not yet encountered ANY information (that I would accept as scientifically valid) that would convince me that there is any way to modify water so that it is either absorbed into the bloodstream from the intestines or into the cells themselves more efficiently than untreated water (or that it can move nutrients or waste products through the body any better).  ANY WATER should hydrate your body and provide transport for nutrients, gases, and waste products perfectly well!   

Two facts that make it unlikely for the clustered water products you mention to have any effect on the body:

  1. Even if there were some way to create special clusters (or other alterations) of water molecules, it is most unlikely that these carefully balanced "structures" would survive intact during the several hour journey through the acid contents of the stomach into the intestines where the water molecules are absorbed.  I included a couple of references below that explain the stomach environment and the absorption process of water into the intestine.  I go into some detail about this idea in my discussion on distilled water.
  2. Water absorption in the intestine is driven by osmosis - a passive process that depends (as far as is known) only on the concentrations of dissolved materials (or solutes) on either side of a membrane (the cells in the intestine and in the rest of the body).  Basically, water molecules move from areas of low solute concentration into areas of high solute concentration.  Cells in the intestine can increase the concentration of solutes within their membrane (by 'pumping' sodium in, for example), and the water follows by osmosis.  According to current theories of water transport into cells, special proteins form small channels in the membrane that are just large enough for single water molecules to fit through.

    Promotional materials that claim their water product has a modified water cluster size do not even attempt to describe how those special clusters can improve the way water molecules enter cells or how the behave in the body to influence health.

The special clusters would have to disassemble to move out of the intestines, reassemble within the bloodstream for transport throughout the body, and disassemble again to move into other cells.  The accepted model of water transport provides no mechanism to explain how water clusters or other forms of 'altered' water could possibly benefit to the body - even if the clusters could be created, stabilized, and controlled.

It is not possible for developers, producers, and marketers of 'altered'/'enhanced' water products to integrate their fanciful theories and claims with conventional scientific theories, so they employ testimonials to support their claims and depend on the fact that the placebo effect will produce enough positive experiences to keep their products selling.

Back to top

If you are interested in exploring the "science" of these 'altered' waters, try to find someone at one of the companies who is willing and able to provide a detailed explanation of:

  1. How the water's special structure is stabilized so it survives an hour or so in the stomach - a highly acidic environment containing digestive enzymes and other molecules and ions.
  2. A mechanism that describes specifically how the 'altered' structure of the water interacts with cell membranes to facilitate transport across the intestinal cell walls and into the bloodstream.  Does the 'structure' cross the intestinal wall intact or reassemble in the bloodstream?
  3. Once in the blood stream, exactly how is the special structure of the water maintained?
  4. Exactly how does the special structure of the water cause the claimed benefits - what are specific effects of the 'altered' water molecules on the metabolic processes?
  5. Results from double-blind trials of their product, preferably peer reviewed, to ensure impartiality and published in a reputable journal, but I would settle for a good description of the experimental method employed.

If you are able to get an explanation that addresses any of the questions above (or similar questions that you devise), I would be EXTREMELY INTERESTED in receiving a copy of the communication and the person's name and e-mail address.

I do not claim to know everything about this subject, but I do know enough to be extremely skeptical about certain claims without very good evidence to back up those claims.  There is an important saying in the scientific community "Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Proof".  Claims made by manufacturers and marketers of 'altered' water can be said to be "Extraordinary" because they fall outside the scope of mainstream scientific theories and conventional understanding of how the world "works".

Consequently, in order for the mainstream scientific and medical communities to accept any of the altered water claims as valid, those who produce and promote the products must:

  1. provide very convincing evidence that the products work in blinded trials - and demonstrate that the results can be reproduced.
  2. provide convincing theories that explain the physics and chemistry behind the processes used to produce the products. There has not even been any evidence provided by producers of altered water products that they would be able to correctly and consistently select their their product from a sample of ordinary water in a blinded test.
  3. describe exactly how the products work in the body to produce the alleged benefits.
  4. So far, none of the the developers and/or promoters of any product you mentioned nor any of the other products on the market for which similar claims are made has been able to address any one of the three criteria above to the satisfaction of the mainstream scientific and medical communities.
  5. Homeopathic remedies are an excellent example of a well established altered water product that does not meet any of the criteria necessary for acceptance by the mainstream science and medical communities.  Specifically:
    • There are no examples of repeatable, well designed and executed blinded trials which demonstrate that homeopathic remedies work any better than placebos.
    • There has never been a testable theory presented that would explain how a substance that is diluted beyond the point where any of the original molecules are present could have any influence on the structure of water (or on a homeopathic pill from which the water has been removed). "Water memory" has been suggested, but no explanation of how that might work has been proposed.
    • There have been no theories offered to explain how a homeopathic preparation might act in the body to cause reported health benefits.

I hope this additional information helps

    Copyright © 2005, Randy Johnson. All rights reserved.


Updated April 2015