The problem with the Japan based Enagic company and its expensive water ionizing machines which produce ‘Kangen water’ is not only the Multi Level Marketing Pyramid Scheme (see main story) in Bhutan and the financial risks for its members, but its distributors across the world and in Bhutan have made medical and health benefits not proven by credible scientific research and tests.
There are many international experts who question these claims including investigative YouTube page Anna’s analysis that also busts these claims based on credible sources.
The biggest public claim made by Kangen water distributors is that its water ionizing devices are a medical device in Japan used in a large number of Japanese hospitals.
Water Ionizers were invented in the 1900’s and it did not rise in popularity until the 1950’s and that too mainly in Japan. The Enagic company established in 1974 started selling Kangen Water in 1990 which means ‘return to origin’ in Japanese.’
In the early 1900’s the Japanese Ministry of Health and Labour said that mildly and strongly acidic waters are a medical substance, though there is no scientific proof to back this.
In 1993 a clinical study of only 193 samples conducted by the medical school of Kyoto University reported that was no statistically significant improvement in the gastrointestinal symptoms of those drinking alkalized ionized water, but only slight trend of improvement was seen.
Based on this inconclusive study when the Drugs, Cosmetics and Medical Instruments Act of Japan was revised in 2005 all ERW or water ionizers was categorized as a home medical device for improvement of gastrointestinal symptoms.
However, even after this under the Japan Pharmaceutical Affairs Law water ionizers cannot make claims of beneficial effects of ERW water like treating diseases.
According to the Molecular Hydrogen Institute, a leading international non profit scientific body supported by leading researchers that focuses on research in hydrogen, most doctors in Japan have not even heard of water ionizers being used for hospital patients.
This myth had started with an early Japanese advertisement which made it appear this was the case when it was not so.
While water ionizers may be recognized as medical devices in Japan and even Korea these are only for these countries and not across the world. If it truly was a medical device, it should have a global unique identification data base presence submitted to the US FDA but this data is not there.
A website called Aqua Scam points out that the populations in Japan and Korea are more susceptible to the pseudo scientific water treatment schemes.
The reason why Enagic water decided to go the MLM route in USA was to keep a low profile and avoid medical and trade regulators.
For a ‘medical device’ manufacturing company Enagic has diversified interests like owning a country club, having a shrimp farm, a table tennis club, a hotel and a golf academy.
Your body needs ‘Alkaline water’
Another major claim by Enagic distributors is that the Electrolyzed Reduced Water (ERW) created by Water Ionizers passing an electric current through water is good for your body as it is alkaline and reduces the acidity in your blood or body and improves PH balance. The machine also claims to have lower oxidation potential meaning more antioxidants. It also claims to create Hydrogen Rich Water (HRW) which is also supposed to be an anti oxidant.
However, none of the above claims are scientifically backed to show it is good for your body or better than tap or mineral water.
According to professional Chemists even when alkaline water enters your body it turns acidic due to the gastric juices in the stomach that need an acidic environment to digest food. Once the digestion is done the pancreatic secretions turn the water alkaline with a perfect PH balance and it is largely absorbed in the intestines. In short your digestive system naturally balances the PH.
Excess acidity is also exhaled as Carbon Dioxide. So no amount of drinking alkaline water will change the PH levels of the human body which anyhow has different PH levels in different parts of the body or skin.
The Chemists also say that ionized alkaline water claims to have healthy anti-oxidant properties, but in reality it does the opposite as alkaline water decolorizes iodine showing the presence of oxidants.
Mayo Clinic says there is no evidence to correlate alkaline water and body PH.
Chemists also says that ionization of water generates hypo chlorites which are not good for the human body and that while the machine may ionize water they are not very effective at removing impurities. The machines are not water filters and only claim to filter chlorine.
Alkaline water as a Cancer cure
One of the main claims made in Bhutan and other places is that Alkaline water from Kangen helps against cancer and they cite Otto Heinrich Warburg who won the 1931 Nobel Prize for his research on cancer cells.
This is, however, based on a complete misquoting of Otto Heinrich Warburg.
He had originally said that once cells turn cancerous they turn acidic with low oxygen, but he never said that acidic conditions cause cancer.
Kangen water distributors across the world and in Bhutan too make the most explosive health claims on it helping on everything from diabetes to Alzheimer’s to Cancer to Polio.
This is why one of the main target markets globally are terminally ill patients like some cancer patients buying the machines thinking they have cancer because their body is too acidic.
Interestingly the parent company itself Enagic does not make these claims is it would otherwise be sued since these are factually and scientific incorrect and misleading statements.
The company in its FDA declaration in the USA says it products have no claims of therapeutic or curative properties and it does not treat, cure or prevent diseases.
On its website, it only says that the benefits of consuming Kangen water are the minerals it contains and the optimal hydration it offers.
However, this is where the beauty of Enagic’s MLM scheme for Kangen water kicks in. The MLM scheme means that every distributor is an independent contractor and so the company cannot be sued or blamed for the false claims made by these independent contractors.
Unless legally pressed Enagic does not go out of its way to dismiss the statements of these distributors.
A lot of the advertisements on the health benefits of Kangen water is based on testimonies of people online who themselves are distributors of the product and so have a financial interest in promoting the product.
However, apart from that, some of the testimonies could be genuine, but they may not be factoring in other lifestyle changes like going vegetarian or maybe getting the placebo effect.
According to Web MD placebo effect is a medical terminology where if a patient believes strongly enough a sugar pill is a cure to a certain disease his belief creates a reaction in the body that actually helps cure him. However, Kangen water cannot take the credit here as much as an ordinary sugar pill.
Some Enagic distributors even claimed that the water helped cure COVID-19, but after it caused an uproar the company in of its rare moments had to step in and issue a statement that its water does not cure COVID.
Over the years, to prove the scientific basis of their health claims, Kangen distributors have compiled a list of ‘scientific studies’ to show the effectiveness of ionized water or alkaline water or even HRW.
They have a link of 100 such studies. However, Anna’s analysis found that 83 of them are not good research or evidence as the sample size was too small, there was no proper control groups, no placebo sampling, and process followed. These were also linked to animal trails which is also not accepted.
She found 8 studies to be more credible but it had nothing to do with Kangen water or machines and was other unrelated scientific experiments.
One problem is that many studies are funded by the ionized water industry.
Kangen distributors also occasionally tout doctors and experts to back them some of whom become quite popular. Two of them are Dr Barry Awe and Dr Vibe but a simple check will show them to be chiropractors which is a form of alternative medicine.
Origin story and micro clustering
A popular origin story of Kangen water is that the people in Hunza valley in Pakistan lived very long lives due to the water they drank being hit by lightening leading to micro-clustering of the molecules.
The claim is that Kangen water has micro-clustering of molecules which makes its absorption easier.
However, later research showed that real reason why Hunza people lived so long was due to the absence of birth certificates and so people overestimated their birth by a decade or two.
A 1986 study of 53 Hunza men showed the suffering from anything from bronchitis to cancer to iodine deficiency and in spring there was starvation leading to mental retardation among children.
One major selling point for distributors of Enagic and Enagic itself is the many certifications it has received and the claim by Enagic that it ‘sets the gold standard when it comes to producers of water ionizers and is one of the most certified companies in the industry.’
However, as Anna points out the certifications do not mean a lot. The first certificate is ISO 9001 which relates to management of the company and customer service even though many people have had a bad customer service experience with the company.
ISO 14001 is about the company sticking to its personal environmental goals but does not even state specific environmental performance criteria.
ISO 13485 says it is the company’s ability to supply medical devices.
Next is the Water Quality Association, USA Gold Seal certificate which only means the product is formulated form safe materials and claims listed on packaging are backed by test data and it will hold up under normal usage.
It says it is a member of the prestigious Direct Selling Association (DSA) which makes it sound like an elite group, but it is actually a lobby group for MLMs. MLM business AdvoCare was a DSA member but it was shut down for being a pyramid scheme.
In fact, Truth in Advertising or TINA found that 137 of the 140 DSA members made false claims of the money that participants are likely to earn.
Enagic claims an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, USA but a search shows a C- rating by the BBB for Enagic for not responding to three complaints filed against the business.
Enagic distributors talk about their 8-point compensation plan being patented, but it only means that it is their intellectual property. Like all of the above, it really does not mean much.
A popular marketing strategy by distributors is to line up Kangen water with other mineral waters and tap water and soda water and do a PH test using a chemical or a machine.
Here, the test is misleading as the subtle message is that tap water is almost as bad soda water or cold drinks.
In more neutral non Kangen water tests of mineral water bottles there are several waters that have a neutral PH. The aim of the whole test is to show tap water and mineral water being unhealthy and only Kangen water being a reliable product.
There is no scientific or medical basis for such tests especially when it is shown above that even alkaline water entering the human body is turned acidic due to the stomach’s digestion process.
Also humans have evolved successfully over thousands of years to survive on rain and spring water.
However, when Kangen machines are compared to similar water ionizers which are around half the price or less than Kangen machines the cheaper ionizers perform better in reducing oxidation.
Enagic’s K8 machine claims to produce 7 different levels of water PH form the most acidic 2.5 to be used for cleaning to 11. It claims the one ideal for drinking is PH 6.