I posted a blog back in April 2015 showing how easy it is to make scientific-sounding claims in order to sell supplements or other “wellness” products. To the layperson such claims sound convincing as they often come from people with Dr or Professor in front of their name, they are peppered with ready-made technical language and often make reference to Nobel Prize winners.
My attention was recently drawn to a website called Gia Wellness, selling a product called the iH2O activation system which got my skeptical senses tingling. The site provides technical information on a product that claims to change the properties of water that then leads to enhanced hydration. The website includes some professionally made videos, but little in the way of what might be called real science. I’ll come back to this website shortly but let me take a moment to explain what I mean by “real science”.
Science is defined not by scientists but by the scientific method. The scientific method is like an evidence creating machine, testing hypotheses and building a body of robust convergent and consilient knowledge that is itself re-tested over time. The antithesis of the scientific method is to assume any one person, scientist or otherwise, has some window on the truth nobody else can see. It is summed up perfectly by the motto of the Royal Society, “Nullius in verba” meaning take nobody’s word for it.
Most people will recognise the scientific method as starting with an observation, followed by the formulation of hypotheses. Predictions are then made from the proposed hypotheses which are tested to see which are right and which are wrong. This sounds straightforward enough but there is an underlying subtlety to the scientific method not often brought into the light.
Predictions can be made from hypotheses because we understand the basic mechanisms of how things work. There are a series of cause and effects, each a tiny dot in a long line of events that join all of science together to form a coherent model of reality. Bear with me for a moment as I give an example.
All the diversity of biology, from singled celled organisms to multicellular plants and animals comes down to the coded information in DNA. But the double helix of DNA is not some magic molecule, on the contrary its existence is entirely consistent with the laws of chemistry. Indeed, in the time just before the structure of DNA was finally elucidated a triple helix was proposed. It was soon discovered however, that for a triple helix to form some basic laws of chemistry had to be violated and so that hypothesis was discarded.
In the final double helix structure of DNA, the atoms combine in a predictable way according to the interaction of their electrons. Those electrons flow together as described by quantum mechanics. All the way from the most fundamental laws of quantum mechanics to the entire variety of life of Earth, there is a myriad of dots of science, all joined together, all intertwined into our modern day monument of knowledge. We don’t understand all the complexity and we don’t know where all the dots are located, but finding and joining those dots is what science is all about. You certainly cannot invent dots just to fit some favourite idea, and you can’t join the dots in any order that suits you. When this happens, science drifts into pseudoscience.
Making predictions based on hypotheses is carried out by joining the dots of cause and effect. If a given hypothesis is true, by joining the dots of cause and effect, then other things must also be true. Those things are then tested to see if the dots are joined in the right way. Einstein’s general theory of relativity for example, joins the dots between mass and gravity waves. If gravity waves did not exist then general relativity would be in trouble.
Getting back to the iH2O activation system - why are my sceptical senses tingling? The reason is that those dots of cause and effect are not joined and if they are, then I’m not sure in what order. Let me give some specifics.
The claim is that water has to be aligned in single-file in order to efficiently pass into the cells of the body. I would ask, what does single-file water look like and how is it measured? How is this joined up with the effects of osmosis and what energy is required to line up the water molecules?
The claim is that we are born with single-file water that becomes jumbled up as we get older. So how is the water aligned in the baby, presumably in the womb? What biochemical processes are involved? What does the single-file water versus age plot look like, is it linear or logarithmic?
I am unclear as to why I have never previously come across single-file water in 30 years of working in physiology and biochemistry but that is somewhat besides the point as I am now asking you to take my word for it. I would ask instead, who are the Nobel Prize winners referred to in the video, what exactly did they discover and where is it published?
If these questions are not hard enough then I would like to know how pushing a button on the top of the water jug lines up the water molecules? Something called “noise field oscillations” are mentioned but that would imply some sonic mechanism, which is actually more likely to jumble up molecules than align them. What molecular processes are taking place that are compatible with the laws of chemistry and physics that makes this happen?
I am not saying the iH2O activation system doesn’t work. All I am saying is that as far as I am aware there is no way of joining the dots of cause and effect within the known laws of science whereby it can possibly work. Of course, I am but one scientist so I could be wrong because I have not seen their extensive research in order to judge. In any case it’s not up to me to show they are wrong, the burden of proof is with Gia Wellness. If they are right, then I will be the first to congratulate them because as far as I can see they will have re-written the laws of physics. Moreover, the potential impact this technology would have on medical imaging and diagnostics would be huge, far beyond the sale of a water jug on their website. In that case, they should be rewarded with Nobel Prizes all of their own. I will leave you to make up your own mind on that one.