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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Ionized Water for the Treatment of Diabetes?   (November 6, 2011)

I received the following e-mail question:

I had knee pain for over a year from surgery and was taking Tylenol on a daily basis for the pain. Since drinking [brand name deleted] water, the pain is completely gone. More importantly, diabetics are reporting 75-100% reduction in their need for insulin shots... This water is produced from a medical device. I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on it.

Turns out the author of the letter is a distributor for a device that ionizes water. To tell the truth, I had no idea that ionized water had any effect whatsoever for people with diabetes. But I was wrong: There's an article describing Supplementation of hydrogen-rich water improves lipid and glucose metabolism in patients with type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance.

I did find a website that claimed this water was clearly better than snake oil: "Numerous scientific studies show the following benefits of restructured ionized water from commercial / hospital water ionizers used in Japan: anti-inflammatory; lowers cholesterol and triglycerides; releases excess body fat and stored toxins; normalizes blood sugar and insulin; normalizes blood pressure; eliminates acid reflux and abnormal gastrointestinal putrefaction [is there normal gastrointestinal putrefaction?]; supports healthy colon function; resolves urinary tract infections and bladder cystitis; reduces candida overgrowth and fungus; minimizes allergies; activates hydrochloric acid; improves wound healing from diabetic sores and gangrene." Notice, there's no claim in this long laundry list that this water helps improve post-surgical knee pain.

A different website came up with a rationale for why this water is so helpful for people with diabetes: "An acidic pH may result in weight problems such as diabetes and obesity. When our body is too acidic, we suffer from a condition known as Insulin Resistance. This forces excessive insulin to be produced. As a result, the body is flooded with so much insulin that it diligently converts every calorie into fat." Ahhh... sorry, gentle reader, but I didn't know that insulin resistance is due to being too acidic.

The writer seems to think that the gadget that he is selling that makes ionized water is a medical device, leading the naïve reader to perhaps assume that it might somehow be covered by medical insurance. After reading a bit on various websites, it seems that Japanese authorities have issued the manufacturer of this ionizer a Medical Device Marketing Authorization (Issued by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Government of Japan. License Number: 27BZ006010). In other words, the manufacturer is allowed to make the gadget. It doesn't imply anything about whether the manufacturer has applied for FDA approval to sell the device in the US, which would be a minimal criteria for insurance reimbursement.

Someone asked on-line "Is [brand name] an MLM scam and should it be avoided?" MLM scams are discussed at Quackwatch, in an article entitled The Mirage of Multilevel Marketing. (It's an article well-worth reading, IMHO.) I guess there might be a reason to using an expensive gadget to purify your water -it will lighten your wallet. The brand name the writer is selling starts at over a thousand bucks, and goes up to $5980 for their "top of the line model for heavy home use. There is no other water ionizer on the market that can compare!" The water gadget company's website is heavily into the financial gain that their distributors might obtain by pitching this product to unsuspecting consumers: "With a long history of providing the highest-quality products, superior customer service, and opportunities for financial wealth, [brand name deleted] can help you fulfill your dreams of a better life. Discover our philosophy of triple health: physical, mental, and financial." MLM, yes; but a scam? Depends on your definition of a scam... One dictionary says a scam is "a dishonest scheme; a fraud."

Let's go back to the writer's claim that set me thinking about researching this product:  "diabetics are reporting 75-100% reduction in their need for insulin shots." I doubt that the author can provide me any evidence to substantiate this claim. Best of course would be from double-blind randomized clinical trials of people taking insulin, done in the same manner as the RCT on T2DM and IGT mentioned above (which should be easy to do - just have some of the participants use plain water or bottled water and others use the deionized stuff - and see what happens). But there's not a shred of testimonial evidence in any of the websites pitching this product that it does anything to lower insulin requirements - and if it did, you know that there'd be multiple claims all over the place that this is the best stuff since sliced bread, or maybe gymnema sylvestre or chromium or whatever stuff is the latest craze for "reversing" diabetes.

Sorry, but unless the writer can substantiate his claim, I'll continue with my belief that ionized water is simply an expensive scam. And of little if any benefit to people with diabetes.

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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