Ionised water – any health benefits?

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Posted 25 October 2017

Ionised water products often make health claims claiming benefits over regular water.

South African products include website-linked promotions, for example at:

  • Alkaline Water Ionizer http://alkalinewaterionizer.co.za
  • Designer Water http://designerwater.com
    “Alkaline Water Scientific Research And Studies Prove How Effective This Kind Of Water Really Is”
  • Mc Alkion Water http://www.mcalkionwater.co.za
    “our water contains: Mc (Micro Clustered) Alk (Alkaline) ion (ionized) water”
    “Drinking alkaline rich ionized water helps the body to replenish the necessary alkaline minerals and assists in bringing balance to a body that is overly acidic. Some of the long terms side effects of overly acidic blood are arthritis, rheumatism, osteroperosis, hyper tension, gout, heart disease, cancer to name a few. If your blood is alkaline you should live long and full lives generally free from illness and disease of all kinds.”
  • Cure http://www.cure.co.za/water-ionizer.htm
  • Generosity Water Alkaline Water

  • Happy Water by Absolute Organix https://www.faithful-to-nature.co.za/happy-water
    Happy Water is a concentrated colloidal solution of Original Himalayan Crystal Salt in ultra-purified water that has been re-energized, re-vitalized and re-oxygenated. 

All claim to have evidence from Japanese or Russian experts, a typical argument to claim evidence for scams. 

Are these websites and products simply scams, making extraordinary claims that are simply nonsense?

This article, Does Your Water Need More Ions? The latest health fad is even more ridiculous than most health fads,  published in Slate, does a great job in pointing out that these products are simply scams.

A complaint was laid by a consumer with the UK Advertising Standards Authority for health claims being made by a UK based producer of alkaline water. The ASA asked the company to supply evidence to support their claims. The evidence supplied was simply not up to any reasonable standard.

ASA Ruling on B-LIFE Ltd t/a ADrop

Background

Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.

Ad description

A magazine ad for ADrop, a water ioniser, seen in March 2017 under the heading “IONISED ALKALINE WATER-A NATURAL WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR CIRCULATION” included the text, “I was diagnosed with diabetes 18 years ago … I learnt that our bodies are more acidic than they should be … Drinking plenty of water is important to keep the circulatory system in optimum condition. However, the results depend on which type of water you choose. I decided to drink ionised alkaline water instead of regular tap water. A portable water ionisator produces ionised water which is created by an electric current being passed through water, a process known as electrolysis. As a result, the water molecules are split into positively charged hydrogen (H+) and negatively charged hydroxyl (OH-) ions … Due to its higher absorption, fluidity and detoxifying effect, ionised alkaline water helps to neutralise the body’s acids and restore the acid-alkaline balance. You can see its ability to dissolve fats and oils in the picture”. A picture showed two glasses of water, one half filled with water with a layer of orange oil on top with the caption “Tap water & Oil: Not emulsified”, the other half filled with yellow liquid with the caption “Ionised alkaline water & Oil: Totally emulsified”. Further text stated “It unburdens the system significantly, as the alkaline flushes out any acid build-up and it restores the chemical balance in the body. Within a few months I noticed obvious changes in my appearance and blood sugar levels … Now I know that drinking ionised alkaline water is a very effective and convenient way to positively improve my health and remove acidic wastes from the body”.

Issue

1. The ASA challenged whether the ad discouraged essential medical treatment for diabetes, a condition for which medical supervision should be sought.

2. The complainant challenged whether the claims that ionised water could benefit health and medical conditions could be substantiated.

Response

1. & 2. B LIFE Ltd t/a ADrop said that there was research available that advocated the positive impact of ionised alkaline water on diabetes. They said that during the ionisation process, metal and non-metals were separated and attracted to different sides of the ioniser; ions of magnesium, potassium or zinc stayed in the ionised alkaline water side. They provided evidence to support their claims which included extracts from several books, abstracts, clinical comment pieces, clinical trials and a video. They also provided medical records of the consumer featured in the ad to demonstrate that she had seen the improvements in her diabetes as stated in the ad.

They also said that they recommended that water was drunk when slightly alkaline which was within the range required by UK Legislation and they did not suggest that water is continuously drunk at more than a 9.5 pH. Specifically in relation to diabetes, they provided four studies which demonstrated a link between ionised water and diabetes which they considered substantiated the claims. In regard to the specific comments in the testimonial in the ad, they did not consider that the quotation invited consumers to only treat diabetes with water. They believed it only stated that the subject of the ad had noticed changes in her appearance and blood sugar levels and that this was substantiated by her medical records, which they provided. They said that the ad only listed the benefits of alkaline water and that the only reference to the condition was in relation to the consumer’s own testimonial and that they were not claiming that ionised alkaline water helped to treat diabetes. They further confirmed that they had no plans to run the ad again.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The CAP Code stated that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. For example, they must not offer specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment for such conditions unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.

The ad made various references to medical conditions including references to the diabetes. The ASA considered that diabetes was a condition for which medical supervision should be sought. We considered that consumers would interpret these various references to diabetes, in the context of the ad, to mean that the ioniser was effective in treating or relieving the symptoms of diabetes.

We therefore considered that by marketing the product as a treatment for diabetes the ad discouraged essential treatment for the condition. Further, because the treatment offered by the product did not take place under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional, we concluded that the claims breached the Code.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).

2. Upheld

While most of the claims made in the ad were in relation to diabetes, we considered that there were also general claims about the benefit ionised water could have on health such as, “However, the results depend on which type of water you choose … Due to its higher absorption, fluidity and detoxifying effect, ionised alkaline water helps to neutralise the body’s acids and restore the acid-alkaline balance”. We considered that consumers would interpret these claims as meaning that if they drank ionised water it would have a better effect on their health than if they drank normal water.

The advertiser provided us with documentary evidence which they believed substantiated these claims. We noted that the majority of the evidence submitted by the advertiser took the form of books and comments from clinicians about the properties of ionised water and the benefit it had on general health and well-being. However, we considered that they did not contain references to peer reviewed journals or provide any scientific basis for the claims the author was making and therefore did not constitute sufficient evidence for the claims. We also noted that the studies supplied by the advertiser were based on the purported effectiveness of hydrogen-rich water on patients with potential metabolic syndrome or abdominal complaints, and one study was conducted on rats. We did not consider the studies appropriate to support the claims made because they were not representative of the general population and we had not seen evidence that the claims were generally accepted by the scientific community. The advertiser also provided the medical records of the consumer featured in the ad. Whilst these showed an improvement in her diabetes, we did not consider this to be sufficient to substantiate the claims made in the ad that the alkaline water was responsible for that or any general improvements in her health. We acknowledged that the advertiser did not intend to use the ad again in the future. In the absence of robust clinical data, which substantiated the claims that ionised water improved a consumer’s general health, we concluded the claims were misleading.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).

Action

The ad must not appear again its current form. We told ADrop not to make claims unless they could be substantiated by robust scientific evidence.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

12.1     12.2     3.1     3.7    

 

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