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Snake Oil

Help Yourself to Some Hydrogen

I get sent links to some pretty egregious snake oil pitches, and the constant flow of them is always a source of (rueful) amazement. You can be amazed at how many different come-ons there are, and by how some of them just keep coming back around, again and again. The “amazing wonder water” pitch usually has some of both: there is absolutely no counting the number of scams that promise you that this latest breakthrough will provide you with life-giving, age-defying miracle water, so the basic form of this shuck has been around for a long time. But people still keep coming up with variations on it. Every property water has (and plenty that it doesn’t) gets dragged into the ads: its pH, which is claimed to do all kinds of amazing things, its ionic strength, mineral content, dissolved oxygen (always food for thought, when you consider the number of water merchants plugging antioxidants as well). . .and on the “say what?” side, you have people claiming to have changed water’s structure completely, to have made pure rings or chains of it, shrunk its molecules, changed its “energy level” or “vibrational frequency”, what have you.

To give you the idea, here’s one that someone pointed me to this morning. I sort of hate to link to these people, but at the same time, I’m pretty sure that no one here will be giving them any business, so there’s that, and the pitch is just too good to miss. These people have a variation that I haven’t heard before: they will provide you with water that has hydrogen in it. Yes indeed. You didn’t know that you were starving for hydrogen, gaseous H2, but you apparently are, according to these folks. By my count, the phrase “fountain of youth” appears 26 times on the web page, and that’s always a sign of quality. Diatomic hydrogen, we are assured, is the smallest and most powerful antioxidant there is, and it will penetrate your mitochondria and pass through your blood-brain barrier, which I’m sure is just where you need it the most.

It appears, though, that there’s plenty of competition in the hydrogenated wonder water market. In fact, all you have to do is Google a phrase from Szent-Györgyi’s Nobel address, referring to hydrogen, where he says of it: “our body really only knows one fuel”. That’ll send you to page after page of offers, none of whom can resist quoting that line, and none of whom know (or care) that in modern terms he was talking about proton gradients and electron transport. Nope, the man said “hydrogen” back in 1937, so hydrogen-saturated water it is. And that web site assures you that your body will take up and use the hydrogen, though its hydrogenase enzymes, although, now that I think about it, I don’t recall us actually using dihydrogen in such a fashion. Bacteria, yeah. But not humans.

No matter. You apparently buy filters for your water supply, you see – you know, the “dead” unhydrogenated water that’s eroding your innards as we speak. And you’ll be buying replacement filters, too, because anything this wonderful is bound to wear out. The specific link above apparently sells you a filter with some magnesium metal in it to generate the hydrogen, but I was under the impression that (at room temperature) there was little or no reaction between water and Mg metal. Not to worry, you’ll be paying for new filters every six months anyway, $45 dollars per. I saw another web site that sells you a similar gizmo that hooks up to your water tap – that one’s a goner in six months, too, and I believe it ran $129 a throw to replace it. You will apparently be so full of lively, fizzed-up energy by that point that you won’t even notice the hand reaching into your hydrogen-saturated wallet.

So there you have it: the latest bulletin from the frontiers of science. Now, if hydrogenated water can just do something about the pain I have from banging my forehead onto my desk. . .

34 comments on “Help Yourself to Some Hydrogen”

  1. Curious Wavefunction says:

    Hopefully we won’t hear news about the human equivalent of the Hindenburg soon.

    Incidentally H2 is a great source of fuel for primitive deep sea alkaline vent life forms which can generate energy by combining H2 and CO2 in the presence of a pH gradient.

    1. Hap says:

      Well, based on the above, we know a few sources of both H2 and CO2 – now if you can only put them near an undersea vent, and find an appropriate pH gradient, everything would be peachy.

      1. Curious Wavefunction says:

        You win’t today’s Internet.

      2. Wzrd1 says:

        Well, in water’s favor, the ph is really cool, it’s solvent abilities, exceptional.
        I dare you to try that with ammonia or methane! 😉

        Which means, water as we usually get it is fine by me. Any hydrogen I need or not need will be provided by H. Plyori, whether or not I need it. 😉
        That’ll let doctor know that I’m infected and I can receive treatment, preferably while I still retain a stomach lining.

        Next, they’ll bring back thorium and radium water!
        Or perhaps, deuterium water.

        1. Cymantrene says:

          You can have radon water (natural!). Just go to Budapest, you will find a drinking hall at the Buda bridgehead of Erzsébet bridge, close to Rudas bath. Look for “Attila” fountain.

    2. oldnuke says:

      Maybe that is the explanation for this old Monty Python skit?


    3. fajensen says:

      Shame. I am such a sucker for spontaneous human combustion.

  2. Hap says:

    I guess people don’t know or care what happens when hydrogen reduces oxidants like good old plentiful oxygen (like <a href = ""this). On the other hand, that would seem to eliminate some of the shallow end of the gene pool, so there’s that.

  3. Anon says:

    Just an observation: This sort of crap seems to happen only in America, protected under “freedom of speech”, whereas it is pulled apart everywhere else under “false advertising”.

    1. DCStone says:

      It can also be whacked in the US under false advertising, but every time you squish one down, two more spring up to take its place. And then you have the individuals (one pushing the “miracle mineral supplement” aka chlorine bleach) who have been repeatedly fined and shut down, only to start over because the persecution is absolute proof that they have a real cure for everything.

      1. Wzrd1 says:

        Well, in its favor, chlorine bleach, especially the nonsense “miracle cure” MMS bleach *is* great for sanitizing municipal water supplies.
        It’s lousy for much else, well beyond destroying, erm, bleaching clothing and that, in dilute form, for consumers.

    2. Algirdas says:

      Your comment is largely besides the point. Most people, myself included, associate rapacious snake oil salesmen with American culture, but the lies lies, fraud, and snake oil trade is 100% worldwide phenomenon. You can buy homeopathic “remedies” anywhere in Europe, and these are just as medically effective as hydrogenated water. You can cart spiritual healers by wagon-load in India. You can find as much tiger bone or rhinoceros horn powder (the fake one is as effective as the real article) as you care to buy in Hong Kong.

      Bottom line – stupidity and greed are universal human constants, nothing special about folks selling you miracle fountain of youth at .

      Oh, and by the way, freedom of speech is a good thing. No scare quotes necessary. Even if it means that shysters, and fools, get to enjoy same rights as you and I.

      1. Wzrd1 says:

        Another way of saying it is, “Hydrogen and stupidity are equally common among humanity”.

  4. luysii says:

    At the risk of encouraging these people further, here’s a quote from Voet and Voet’s “Biochemistry” — not sure which edition, but it’s in chapter II in one of them

    “Water is a chemically reactive liquid with such extraordinary physical properties that, if chemists had discovered it in recent times, it would undoubtedly have been classified as an exotic substance”

  5. Gaear Grimsrud says:

    Where’s Hydrogens house? We stop in Japan for Hydrogens house!

  6. blue flame says:

    Sadly, hydrogen beer also seems to be an urban legend.

    1. Stupid marketers. Don’t they know that water provides only 1 kind of hydrogen. Your body needs hydrogen in many forms, and ones that water simply doesn’t provide. But rest assured, there is a way to get 3X — that’s right 3X as many types of hydrogen as you can get from water alone.

      What is this amazing source you wonder? Well, it goes by many names. Here is an example of the ‘proof’ of the 3 kinds of hydrogen provided by just a few of the sources.

      : )

  7. Julien says:

    Searched “hydrogen-rich water” in pubmed ; got a handful of results. Most are from obscure journals, but are they all quackery ?? Among all the reactive species (hydroxyl, superoxide, nitric oxide, preoxynitrite, ferryl-oxo, etc) bathing in our systems, I would not be that surprised to learn that some of them react pretty quickly with molecular hydrogen. The fraud lies in the claims of eternal youth.
    I find it odd that nobody has already mentionned the piles of H2, H2S, MeSH and CH4 produced daily in our guts… Those bacteria do have hydrogenases.

    Side note, ladies and gentlemen : everyone here seem to be amazed at how deep ignorance can go, in a world where even after getting a PhD you barely know anything. Many people out there have trouble figuring out that it is not hydrogen that bubbles out of their kettle. They are bombarded with “crystals” that “realign their quantum magnetic energy”… and they trust the guy with a shiny white labcoat. It is dreadful, but we have to deal with it. Also, don’t think it is specific to the US. Here in France, my grandma has bought a lamp made of Himalaya salt (probably to keep the bad waves away), and my mom in an homeopath.

    1. Nick K says:

      Sad to say, there’s probably more money nowadays in homeopathy and other woo than in actual pharma. Boiron, the French peddler of homeopathic nonsense is a multibillion Euro business.

    2. tangent says:

      There was a paper saying that inhaling 2% hydrogen reduced the lung damage caused by 98% O2. Apparently reduces oxidative stress by activating heme oxygenase.

      I haven’t heard more about whether this panned out as clinically useful. Seems potentially really valuable in the ICU.

  8. Tomas says:

    The problem with hydrogen-poor water is that it being pumped by facilities powered by nuclear energy. The spin of nuclearly generated electrons knocks out the dissolved hydrogen.

    The Solution: NucleoSTOP, a compact device, is the answer. Through an innovative process, electricity from nuclear power is recognized and, before it can flow through your appliances, is sent back to the source.

    The device can be easily attached to any power outlet — ideally at the house’s main circuit — and you can immediately use electricity with a clean conscience. And the nuclear lobby doesn’t profit from it.

  9. sgcox says:

    On the unrelated note, how far have we advanced the management strategy in XXI centuary from the old practices?

  10. Beer or plain water, dihydrogen has the same problem as helium; low aqueous solubility. With hydrogen beer you might at least get a fantastic flammable head. Plain water you’d just get a poof of H2 when you open the bottle.

    1. AGMMGA says:

      >> Beer […] has the same problem as helium; low aqueous solubility.

      Solution: don’t drink water!

  11. Sipi1972 says:

    Make your tea from the hot tap water: boilers are typically corrosion protected with magnesium anodes.
    Lucky ones with common food intolerances! (Hydrogen breath test.)

    1. Wzrd1 says:

      Actually, the hydrogen breath test is one test for h. pylori infection.

      1. Sipi1972 says:

        Used to be. The urea breath test is more specific for that. I just wanted to make clear that my comment was Fe-izing.

  12. Dave says:

    How could you possibly write a story like this without mentioning either “Ice-Nine” or “Polywater”? 😉

    Umm, has anyone tried to sell you either of these things (yet)? 😉

  13. Earl Boebert says:

    Since you have a category for it, you may be interested in this article on the evolution of the term “snake oil:”

  14. Gene says:

    It MUST be true! It has a Wall O’ Text!

  15. Curt F. says:

    Another water scam that I’m surprised no one has mentioned yet is “deuterium-depleted water”. Looks like the snake oil salesmen have “contributed” a fair bit to the relevant wikipedia page. It’s sad that wikipedia can’t protect itself better from this kind of content pollution.

  16. qvxb says:

    It’s the H-O-H bond angle that’s important!

  17. MillennialChemist says:

    You know what will give you lots of hydrogen?
    Taking that lump of Magnesium metal in your “filter” and eating it!
    Your stomach acid will soon react with the magnesium to give hydrogen gas, which will saturate your insides!

    …Plus, your burps will be flammable!

  18. Dieter Weber says:

    It totally works! Last week I was on a long hike in the sun and I felt terrible. Headache, dry mouth, fatigue. Then I drank a bottle of hydrogenated water, and I could feel the antioxidative effect right away! Within half an hour, I was like reborn. And soon after my body washed out all the dark and toxic oxidative by-products through my kidneys until the water was running clear and my body was pure again. All hail the mighty hydrogen!

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