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Because the human body (i.e. you) is composed of 70% water, water is vital to our well-being. So somehow "improving" the water, by making it more active or giving it more energy, must surely make us even weller. That's the underlying message behind water woo (also known somewhat more fancifully as hydrolatry). The real reason is that water is generally rather inexpensive and can be used to reduce costs (legitimate food manufacturers even add water in meat to increase weight); thus, the woo peddler manufacturing water-based remedies (as opposed to, say, ones based on more
effective expensive liquids) can increase their profit margin.
Water is the most vital component of the human body and without it we would die from dehydration in a matter of days, in contrast to the many weeks that we could survive without food. Our food should provide all the protein, fat, vitamins and minerals we need for our body to function; all we need is some H2O to replenish that which is lost mainly by urination, perspiration and exhalation. The main requirement of water is that it should be relatively free of harmful organisms, toxic chemicals, and not be overloaded with salts which might then lead to dehydration through the process of osmosis.[note 1] In theory, pure distilled water is all we need. However, pure water is tasteless and it is more appetizing if some trace mineral salts are dissolved in it, and in moderation mineral salts may do us good. The combination of different minerals is what gives various "spring waters" their individual tastes, although too much of any particular mineral may have some toxicity or lead to the formation of kidney stones. This is the problem of advocates of making alkaline water with baking soda or other mineral/chemical additives. They overlook or do not disclose these warnings to people, and many users end up with kidney stones or other health issues from over consumption.
It is commonly believed (and repeated by people who ought to know better) that we need eight glasses of pure water a day for optimum health. That we have reached a population of over 7.5 billion people - when pure (or even fairly clean) water has been unavailable in most countries for most of history - must therefore be some sort of miracle. Or not. The eight glasses a day concept was first put forward in the 1940s in a more sensible form: adults should consume one milliliter for every calorie consumed. The phrase "most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods" seems to have got lost along the way. Oops.
In some places the local water supply may be unsafe for raw consumption - either because of poor filtration, bad plumbing, contaminated wells or some natural disaster - so an alternative bottled purified source is advisable for drinking. In France, where there are now over 200 brands of bottled water, this is what led to the rise of brands such as Badoit, Evian, Perrier, Vichy, Vittel and Volvic which were sold in restaurants and cafes, thereby establishing themselves as chic dining accompaniments in the eyes of wannabe gastronomes. Bottling what nature provides for free and adding a significant mark-up has led to a highly profitable international business.[note 2] However, depending on where you are, bottled water may actually be less safe for human consumption, as limits for certain substances are stricter for tap water[note 3] in some countries.
With greater sales, more profits and a bigger marketing budget, water bottlers attempted to market their own brands as being better than tap water although taste tests have often shown that some domestic tap water is preferred to bottled water alternatives and may even have less bacteria. In localities where the domestic water supply is safe to drink the only negative taste is often due to chlorination, which disappears after a short time of exposure to air.
The profitable nature of the bottled water business even persuaded Coca Cola to get in on the act by launching their own brand known as Dasani, which was revealed to be filtered tap water and on one occasion even contained bromate, a "pretty nasty carcinogen" - something that Perrier will empathize with.
Other companies even make specific health claims for their water. GlaciaNova (Awaken The Power of Water) claims that their water:
“”...is rich in bio-available trace minerals and possesses a naturally high oxygen content
even though dissolved oxygen is probably not ingested by the body (see oxygenated water, below). And then goes on to say:
“”Although the molecular behaviors of H2O continue to be debated by scientists, clinical evidence suggests that our glacial water may actually be naturally "micro-structured". Theoretically, water in a "micro-structured" (also known as "clustered") state is more easily absorbed by cells and thus rapidly increases intracellular hydration.
Non scientific field trials
Translation: L'eau Du Robinet (French) = Tap water (English)
Weight loss woo
Go to any weight loss site, and listen to the dieters in the "community boards" and you will see water everywhere.
8 glasses of water
- Claim: 64 oz. of pure pure water. NOTHING else will do. Not coffee, not soup, not even herbal teas (which is made from teabags steeped in, you know.... water). Just water. And if you "hate the taste of water" it is "ok" to use "a slice of lemon".
- Reality: You need to drink enough liquids to keep you from being thirsty. For dieters, 8 glasses is a good goal, because drinking things, especially things with flavor, can keep you from nibbling. But water is water, in any form. Soup, herbal tea, even milkshakes. If you are dieting, there are advantages to drinking low calorie or calorie free drinks, but if you have budgeted in a thick chocolate mocha - it's still part of the magical "8 glasses". The one real exception would be that drinks with excess caffeine or alcohol are poor sources of hydration - not because there's something "wrong" with the water they contain, but because the body uses water to remove these drugs from one's system. Note also that most foods contain at least some water, which your digestive system also absorbs, and this too counts toward the "8 glasses".
Hot water helps hunger
Don't know where this one comes from, or why anyone would believe it, but you will find people who swear by a glass of plain hot water in the morning to keep them from getting hungry.
Ice water burns calories
While this is technically true—if you drink ice cold water, your body does have to heat it up to body temperature, so you burn more calories—the number of calories is minuscule. You may remember from your chemistry class that it takes 37 calories to raise the temperature of 1 millilitre of water from 0°C (ice temperature) to 37°C (body temperature) -- but remember, the "Calories" you get from food are really kilocalories, so it really only takes 0.037 food Calories to achieve this temperature increase. You'd have to drink 27 millilitres of ice water to burn 1 food Calorie, or 3.5 litres to burn off that 130 Calorie bag of chips, and by that time you'll probably be dead from water toxicity.
If you really want to burn calories the easy way, you would burn far more by standing outside during a snowstorm in the nude. Just come in before you go into hypothermia.
Some people think that adding oxygen to bottled water (and charging an even greater premium for it) can enhance athletic performance, after all we are composed of mostly water and need oxygen to breathe - in fact, lack of oxygen will kill us even faster than lack of water. However, any dissolved oxygen is likely to have been lost to the atmosphere when opened or end up as nothing more than an expensive burp. Of course, all that extra oxygen in your bloodstream will require megadoses of expensive anti-oxidants to counteract its toxic effects. (Oops!)
A correspondent to the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that 
Of 5 tested brands of oxygenated water, 4 contained more O2 than tap water, but their O2 content was not great because O2 is relatively insoluble in water. The highest contained 80 mL of O2 in a typical 12-ounce bottle.
However, air is 20.9% O2, and a normal human tidal breath of roughly 500 mL contains 100 mL of O2. Thus, a single breath of air contains more O2 than a bottle of oxygenated water. Given that hemoglobin is already nearly saturated with O2 during air breathing, and that only a small amount of additional O2 can be dissolved in plasma, it is not surprising that oxygenated water did not improve maximal exercise performance. Furthermore, given the small amount of oxygen in bottled water compared with that in air, any benefit would likely be quite brief.
O2Cool Oxygen Water or HiOSilver Oxygen Water ("Oxygenated Water the way it should be - in glass bottles") costs $33.95 for 12 x 12 oz. bottles or $49.95 for 24 x 16 oz. cans (er... Oxygenated Water the way it shouldn't be - in aluminum cans?). Or you can drink tap-water and put your savings towards an Apple iPad.
Alternative: If you really want oxygenated water, take tap water, take a clean whisk, run the whisk in the water, and oxygen from the air will get into the water. That costs nothing, and it makes a good cup of tea, but usually it isn’t worth the effort.
Many woo peddlers market their special brands of water as being structure-altered water (SAW), claiming that molecular bonds have been changed (never really explaining how) to make it more easily absorbed by the body, improve hydration, taste better or supply extra energy for athletes.
Water is a simple molecule. One oxygen atom stuck to two hydrogen atoms, with the covalent bonds at a 108°, creating a wriggly, polar molecule that is firmly bonded (hence its high heat capacity and why it takes forever for it to boil). That's it. If you change any of this then it by-definition stops being water.
In liquid form, water molecules do cluster together into small, structured groups. However, as mentioned in the article on water memory, these clusters spontaneously form and break apart billions of times per second. Products like GlaciaNova claim that they contain special water molecule clusters that are more readily absorbed by your cells; even if their manufacturing process does create unusual water clusters -- which it probably doesn't -- there's no way these clusters could survive for even a second, much less remain intact through bottling, shipping, and drinking. The only other thing that could really be called "water clusters" are ice crystals, which these bottles of liquid, room-temperature water clearly do not contain. And in case you were wondering, ice crystals would in fact be harder for your body to absorb than liquid water... were it not for the fact that your own body heat melts it into liquid first anyway.
Take as an example this site, which claims that:
- With drinking water therapy, diabetes can be cured with seven sessions, hypertension can be controlled in four weeks, pulmonary TB can be cured in three months and some cancers can also be controlled.
- Anemia, rheumatism, general paralysis, obesity, arthritis, sinusitis, tachycardia, giddiness, cough, leukemia, asthma, bronchitis, meningitis, kidney stones, hyper acidity, dysentery, gastroenteritis, uterus cancer, rectal piodapse, hostorthobics, eye diseases, ophthalmic hemorrhage, irregular menstruation, breast cancer, laryngitis, headache, urogenital diseases are the diseases that can be cured from this therapy.
All this from drinking 1.5 litres of water a day. Simple really. It's a wonder that your MD has never suggested such an easy cure; those who sell Kabbalah water make similar claims.
This is, of course, where it gets dangerous. In a search for an simple cure to our ailments it's easy to grasp at any straw and, if a period trialing such woo coincides with a period of natural remission then the conclusion that the water has somehow worked is easy to jump to. Meanwhile the very real drugs, the ones which are actually working, the ones with proper clinical trials, may be left untouched in the medicine cabinet. And lest you think the potential harm is limited to the immediate victims of a woo-peddler, see the example above of someone lying about water woo doing anything to pulmonary TB. Untreated pulmonary TB is highly contagious, so these woo peddlers can and do cause a lot of splash damage.
Myths about water safety
Ultra pure water will kill you
Ultra pure water has no minerals. The myth goes: therefore it will leech out the minerals out of your cells, killing you. No, ultra pure water will not leach the minerals out of your cells. This is an urban myth. The World Health Organisation states that there is a lack of evidence that low mineral water is dangerous.
Tap water will kill you
Tap water is 100% safe to drink as long as it meets drinking water standards. As long as your tap water doesn't have contaminants such as lead, it is 100% safe to drink. It will not kill you. Tap water doesn't cause cancer; the World Health Organisation concluded that the fluoride in tap water is not responsible for cancer.
There is truth to this myth: The tap water of 200 million Americans has dangerous levels of chromium-6, a carcinogen. 1.2 million American children suffer from lead poisoning as a lot of Americans don't have access to tap water that meets standards. In a nutshell, American tap water infrastructure is horrible. If an American lives in an area where tap water does not meet drinking water standards, buying a water filter isn't a waste of money. You need to buy a NSF Certified water filter and ensure the filter is not a scam.
Non-alkaline water will kill you
Despite the popular false claims about ionized water being debunked years ago, it just won't die. A YouTube video promoting alkaline water as the only safe water ever has over 18 million views. The science behind alkaline is very weak. Alkaline water actually increases the amount free radicals as it does the exact opposite of an antioxidant, regardless of quacks lying about its nonexistent antioxidant properties. Although deionized water really is a thing, ionized water is not an actual term in water chemistry as all water except pure water contains ions.
Alkaline water is however a very good way to treat acid reflux, as that's just basic chemistry. Though that's already the entire purpose of antacids like tums.
Other water woo
Drinking (or not) cold water with a meal
One claim that comes from, of all places, Ayurvedic medicine, is that drinking cold water with a meal will put out your digestive "fires" and either slow your digestion, speed up the passage of your food, or make your digestion incomplete (they can't seem to decide which).
This is bupkis. Unless you're drinking way more water than is safe, water during a meal will neither overdilute your stomach acid nor result in food leaving your stomach too early or too late. And there aren't any campfires burning inside your body.
Water freezes differently when you think bad thoughts
Doctor [sic] Masaru Emoto, in his groundbreaking 100% scientific book The Hidden Messages in Water, claims that the crystals that form in frozen water are different when specific, concentrated thoughts are directed toward them. Thinking "loving words" creates pretty snowflake patterns, while thinking "negative thoughts" or words like "Hitler" and "Satan" creates dull asymmetric patterns. He photographed these with high-speed photography, so you know it must be true.
- Alkaline diet, particularly "alkaline water"
- The Big Pitcher
- Colloidal silver
- Dihydrogen monoxide
- Fereydoon Batmanghelidj
- Kabbalah water
- Masaru Emoto
- Precious Metals Nanowater
- Quantum Stirwand
- Real Water
- Water fluoridation
- Water Related Pseudoscience, Fantasy and Quackery
- Selecting a Home Water Treatment System, what to do if your tap water is actually dangerous
- GlaciaNova - official site
- Hunza® and ZETA Potential - Archived scam
- hiOsilver Oxygen Water - Discontinued, brand relaunched as
- Real Water™ archive of official site
- HOLO Water™ Generator, archived link
- Which is why you should never drink sea-water to rehydrate yourself, no matter how thirsty you are. Although the occasional mouthful isn't going to kill you unless it's heavily polluted.
- The price per liter of some bottled waters is often higher than petrol/gasoline which requires expensive advanced technologies to discover and refine and is usually subject to a more onerous tax regime.
- For example, in Germany tap water is protected by law and has to be treated to fulfill very strict criteria, whereas "mineral water" (the most common type of bottled water) has to be bottled untreated and thus contains more pollutants more often than not
- The water in you. Archived from The USGS Water Science School, 4 June 2015.
- Structure Of Water Molecule. botnam.com, 23 April 2022.
- Drinking eight glasses of water a day is healthy, right? Wrong.
- Bottled water from France
- ABC: Is Bottled Water Better Than Tap?, by John Stossel.
- Soft drink is purified tap water
- Guardian.co.uk: Things get worse with Coke
- New York Times: Perrier Recalls Its Water in U.S. After Benzene Is Found in Bottles
- GlaciaNova: The Science of Water
- Snopes agrees.
- Oxygenated Water: Fad and Fiction in One, Expensive Burp
- JAMA Vol. 290 No. 18, November 12, 2003, Oxygenated Water and Athletic Performance
- Online order page for oxygenated water
- Drinking Water Scams
- Water Cluster Quckery
- Drinking water H2O: A gentle introduction to water and its structure.
- Guidelines for drinking-water quality: Fourth edition WHO Chapter 6, p.g 115.
- Drinking Water Contaminants – Standards and Regulations EPA
- Fluoride in tap water does not cause cancer Cancer Council NSW
- Chromium-6: 'Erin Brockovich' chemical threatens two-thirds of Americans The Guardian
- 1.2 million children in the US have lead poisoning. We’re only treating half of them. Vox
- Don't drink another drop of water until you see this!! from the YouTube channel Better Mankind.
- Is Alkaline Water Just A Way Of Making Expensive Pee? by Ryan F. Mandelbaum Gizmodo
- "Ionized" and alkaline water AquaScams
LeadingBad Doctors and researchers give their views on the health benefits of drinking alkaline ionized water. PDF
- Do Cold Drinks Alter Digestion?, by Steven Novella
- Why It’s Time To Throw Out Your Microwave, courtesy of Vani the Food Babe