Bruce Lawson’s personal site

On Kangen water, snakeoil and the New Age far right

Kangen water is a trademark for machine-electrolysed water, owned by Enagic. Similar water is also variously known as Electrolyzed Reduced Alkaline Water, Alkaline Water, Structured Water, or Hexagonal Water. It’s popular among new-age influencers and their followers, because it raises the vibrational frequency of their chakras and kundalinis, thereby energising the Qui so that Gemini shines in their quantum auras, or something. Of course, none of these are verifiable –because they’re all fictional.

Enagic itself is careful not to over-promise; their website says that their water can be used for preparing food, making coffee, watering plants, washing your pets, face, hair – who knew?! It rather confusingly tells you “Take your medicine with this water” (Archived web page):


while their FAQ tells you

Kangen Water® is intended for everyday drinking and cooking rather than for drinking with medication. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare gives the following directions: Do not take medication with machine-produced water. (Archived page)

Alkaline water’s health benefits

As for health benefits, Enagic simply claims that Kangen water is

perfect for drinking and healthy cooking. This electrolytically-reduced, hydrogen-rich water works to restore your body to a more alkaline state, which is optimal for good health.

The mechanism by which it makes your body more alkaline is not explained, nor why a more alkaline state should be “optimal for good health”. In its article Is alkaline water a miracle cure – or BS? The science is in, The Guardian cites Dr Tanis Fenton, an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary and an evidence analyst for Dietitians of Canada:

Fenton stresses, you simply can’t change the pH of your body by drinking alkaline water. “Your body regulates its [blood] pH in a very narrow range because all our enzymes are designed to work at pH 7.4. If our pH varied too much we wouldn’t survive.”

Masaru Emoto and Water memory

The swamps of social media are full of people selling magic Water to each other, making all sorts of outlandish unscientific claims, such as water has “memory”:

water holds memory

This hokum was popularised by Masuru Emoto, a graduate in International Relations who became a “Doctor” of Alternative Medicine at the Open International University for Alternative Medicine in India, a diploma mill which targeted quacks to sell its degrees and was later shut down.

(The idea that water holds memory is often cited by fans of homeopathy. They agree: there is none of the actual substance remaining in this water because it’s been diluted out of existence, but it does its magical healing because the water *remembers*. Cosmic, maaan.)

Mr Emoto’s results have never been reproduced, his methodology was unscientific, sloppy and subjective. Mr Emoto was invited to participate in the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge in which pseudo-scientists are invited to replicate their results in properly controlled scientific methods, and get paid $1 million if they succeed. For some inexplicable reason, he didn’t take up the challenge.

Hexagonal water hydrates better

It’s also claimed that this magical water forms hexagonal “clusters” that somehow make it more hydrating because it’s more readily absorbed by cells. This is nonsense: although water clusters have been observed experimentally, they have a very short lifetime: the hydrogen bonds are continually breaking and reforming at timescales shorter than 200 femtoseconds.

In any case, Water molecules enter cells through a structure called an aquaporin, in single file. If they were clustered, they would be too big to enter the cell.

Electrolyzed Reduced Alkaline Water and science

Let’s look at what real scientists say. From Systematic review of the association between dietary acid load, alkaline water and cancer:

Despite the promotion of the alkaline diet and alkaline water by the media and salespeople, there is almost no actual research to either support or disprove these ideas. This systematic review of the literature revealed a lack of evidence for or against diet acid load and/or alkaline water for the initiation or treatment of cancer. Promotion of alkaline diet and alkaline water to the public for cancer prevention or treatment is not justified.

In their paper Physico-Chemical, Biological and Therapeutic Characteristics of Electrolyzed Reduced Alkaline Water (ERAW), Marc Henry and Jacques Chambron of the University of Strasbourg wrote

It was demonstrated that degradation of the electrodes during functioning of the device releases very reactive nanoparticles of platinum, the toxicity of which has not yet been clearly proven. This report recommends alerting health authorities of the uncontrolled availability of these devices used as health products, but which generate drug substances and should therefore be sold according to regulatory requirements.

In short: machine-produced magic water has no scientifically demonstrable health benefits, and may actually be harmful.

Living structured water?

So why do people make such nonsensical claims about magic water? Some do it for profit, of course. Enagic sells via a multi-level marketing scheme, similar to Amway but for Spiritual People, Lightworkers, Starseeds and Truth-Seakers. (Typo intentional; new-age bliss ninnies love to misspell “sister” as “SeaStar”, for example, because the Cosmos reveals itself through weak puns, and —of course— the Cosmos only speaks English. You sea?)

Doubtless many customers and sellers actually genuinely believe in magic water. It would be tempting to think of this as just some harmless fad for airheads who enjoy sunning their perineums (it was Metaphysical Meagan’s instagram that first introduced me to Magic water machines; of course, she has a “water business”)

But it’s not harmless. The same people who promote magic water also bang on about “sacred earth“, claim Trump won the 2020 election, Covid is a “plandemic” and show a disturbing tendency towards far right politics. The excellent article The New Age Racket and the Left (from 2004 but still worth reading in full) sums it up brilliantly:

At best, then, New Age is a lucrative side venture of neoliberalism, lining the pockets of those crafty enough to package spiritual fulfillment as a marketable product while leaving the spiritually hungry as unsated as ever. At worst, though, it is the expression of something altogether more sinister. Rootedness in the earth, a return to pure and authentic folkways, the embrace of irrationalism, the conviction that there is an authentic way of being beyond politics, the uncritical substitution of group- identification for self-knowledge, are all of them basic features of right-wing ideology…

Many New Agers seem to feel not just secure in but altogether self-righteous about the benevolence of their world-view, pointing to the fact, for example, that it ‘celebrates’ the native cultures that global capitalism would plow over. To this one might respond, first of all, that celebration of native cultures is itself big business. Starbucks does it. So, in its rhetoric, does the Southeast Asian sex-tourism industry. Second, the simple fact that New Age is by its own lights multicultural and syncretistic is by no means a guarantee that it is safe from the accusation of being, at best, permissive of, and, at worst, itself an expression of, right-wing ideology. The Nazis, to return to a tried and true example, were no less obsessed with Indian spirituality than was George Harrison.

Conclusion

Kangen water and its non-branded magical siblings are useless nonsense that wastes resources as it requires electricity. Enagic gives contradictory advice about whether it’s safe to use it to take (real) medicines with. Water machines might make the source water worse because the device releases very reactive nanoparticles of platinum. Most people who extol its virtues want of your money, and they might also be an anti-scientific quasi-fascist.

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