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“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact”
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Paleo Water III (and final)

I want to begin this post by apologizing to Tyler LeBaron for dragging him inadvertently into this "controversy" of sorts.  As I understand it, Tyler has done the chemical analyses on the water produced by the Alkaway filter, and can attest to its chemical properties, but has no other connection to this company.  After trading comments in my last post, we decided that speaking on the phone might be a more efficient way to discuss the science and misunderstandings.  From his point of view it seemed like I was dissing hydrogen water and the science there.  From mine, largely based on the electrolysis video, I thought he was misrepresenting the science.  As it turns out, neither of those impressions are true.  I also admit to baiting Ian in the comments about ORP and such, and this unfortunately snared Tyler.  As always, my comments are open to Tyler to expand/clarify/etc. whatever I've written here.   I hope this clears things up a bit anyway.  I had considered editing an update into the last post, but then deleting/editing/etc. would leave the discussion disjointed, thus I think this is the best option.

So ...  Hydrogen water.  

I have an extensive background in corrosion electrochemistry ... when I heard that hydrogen was being touted as an antioxidant, this seemed rather outlandish to me.  However I did check PubMed and found a ton of citations.  This is fairly new, but there were even things related to one of my oft-discussed topics:  diabetes.  I'll try and edit back in a link to one study that looked particularly promising, but there was even an entire symposium of legit scientists working on this!  The 2011 Medical Molecular Hydrogen Symposium: An inaugural symposium of the journal Medical Gas Research.  So ... there is something to hydrogen ... as I did mention, but didn't stress, in my first post on the topic.

And I think therein Tyler and I share a distaste for the pseudoscience surrounding and/or plying off of legitimate scientific discoveries.   All this does is cloud the issue and I can see how someone that is working on this would get frustrated by this.  The point of the video I highlighted in my last post was actually about that in the water industry.  As I related to Tyler, I don't think that point made it through in his video.  I have only skimmed some of the research, and am still not clear about the hydrogen source used in various studies.  The reason I think this is important is that if it is produced by reaction with Mg, and the water is alkaline, this would indicate you have some dissolved Mg ions in this water (exactly how much?).  Given Mg's known metabolic effects, this confounds the issue.  Tyler said that hydrogen water in some studies is generated by bubbling the gas through water, however, which would take Mg out of the equation and they see the impact there as well.  

Now, if hydrogen "infusion" is accomplished by electrolysis, the manufacturers of such units would need to explain what happens to the byproducts at the anode.  From this site, your "magical" alkaline water is indeed produced at the cathode and the "catholyte" water would be both alkaline and enriched in hydrogen.  But this does not happen without an equal amount of "anolyte" produced which is both acidic and enriched in oxygen.  If you do this without compartmentalizing the electrolysis reactions (as in this video), you end up with neutral water enriched in both oxygen and hydrogen.  If a $4000 electrolytic alkalizer unit doesn't have a waste to drain ... 

Bottom line -- alkalinity vs. hydrogen gas?  It's the hydrogen gas to which potentially beneficial effects can be attributed.  All in all, this is a fascinating area of research.  I'm less impressed by the in vitro work, but there have even been some human trials so one can't dismiss this out of hand.  In any case, this is generally outside the scope of this blog and my current aspirations and such.  I'm seriously considering having Tyler write a guest post here on the real science of hydrogen water.  

And this is the thing about this so-called "paleo water" fiasco.  It's not paleo water.  At least the first promo included the hydrogen in the water, though I really think it is out of bounds to imply that somehow this hydrogenated water was around in abundance in paleo times.  The new schtick about combining this water with your LC diet and detoxifying your fat so your body will let go of it?  This is the kind of hogwash I will mock, and do so mercilessly, because it deserves to be.  But worse, they took the hydrogen content -- the only scientifically sound part with regard to health benefits -- part out completely!  It's not mentioned on the videos either.

The alkaline diet stuff is bunk.  Period.  Sadly, this is the only thing "paleo" about this water.

It's hysterical that Cassie in her video touts water full of both oxygen and antioxidants.  Do not get me started on "electro-energy".  More bunk.  Period.  Huge amounts of alkalinity?  Ian was telling me that this is different than pH.  No it's not.  The term alkalinity refers to the pH.  If you're talking content of alkaline metals then talk that.  Don't mix and match.  Maybe that's a term with a different meaning amongst water peoples, but you are misusing the term.  Like I said, this I will mock, without apology I might add.   

As the chemistry goes, alkaline hydrogen water is an "oxymoron" in terms of the claims being made.  Your stomach is filled with fairly concentrated hydrochloric acid and will neutralize the water in short order.  As for hydrogen the antioxidant, as stated in my first post, this is what happens when hydrogen gas is oxidized:
H2 → 2H+ + 2e
Thus in doing it's antioxidant thing, molecular hydrogen would acidify the environment.  Perhaps this is the most interesting thing about this all.  If THAT doesn't debunk your alkaline diet crap ...

Over and out :-) 


Tyler LeBaron said...

Thanks for the updated post. Many great points!! You brought up a few important questions/concerns; I’ll quickly address these as it may benefit some of the readers.

Re: magnesium.
Yes, magnesium could certainly be a confounding issue in the studies, as it is an important cofactor for 300+ enzyme systems, and may even have a therapeutic effect at larger doses. The DRI is ≈ 400 mg/ day and many people may not even be getting that much. So even if drinking the water helped them achieve the DRI there would possibly be a beneficial effect.

However, as you mentioned in the post, many studies simply bubble hydrogen gas into water, thus eliminating that possibility. Moreover, even with the studies that do use magnesium to produce the hydrogen, the magnesium concentration is less than 1 mg/L. (see methods in full text:

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