Flanagan's hydride ion shenanigans
junk science debunked

Crystal Energy®, Microhydrin® and other wonders claimed (without any credible evidence) to speed entry of nutrients or exit of  "toxins" from the body, or to help maintain youthful vigor, are offered to science-naïve consumers by thousands of dubious Web sites.

Pitches for Crystal Energy® make much of the fact that it contains colloidal particles (widely found almost everywhere in nature). Making a huge and unwarrented jump in logic, they point out that such particles are also present in glacial waters which are widely claimed (without any credible evidence) to be responsible for the supposed longevity (again, without any credible documented evidence) of certain mountain peoples such as the Hunza of Pakistan.

]The genius behind much of this stuff is one Patrick Flanagan, whom you can read about here:

Current Wikipedia article about (or by?) "Doctor" Flanagan
(Since 2009 there has been a warning at top of article, questioning its objectivity)

Pre-2009 Wikipedia article, giving much more information

Patrick Flanagan, "1997 Scientist of the year"
(This link is now dead. It was never clear who actually conferred
this honor on him; it was certainly not the Nobel Committee !)

The Flanagan Follies page at Canadian Quackery Watch.

Patrick Flanagan and the Amazing Neurophone

2014 Daily Dot article on Flanagan and his Neurophone

Microhydrin®, the most well-known of his nostrums (currently offered by his company Phi Sciences) ia misleadingly described as "silica hydride". Flanagan claims that he has managed to entrap hydride ions within certain colloids, thus retaining their undoubted antioxidant power while removing the inconvenient tendency of  aqueous hydride ion solutions to dissolve your esophagus. As far as I am aware, there is no credible scientific support for this claim.

Hydride ions (H) are well-known to chemists, but being stronger proton-acceptors than water, they react with water to form strongly alkaline solutions.

There seems to be very little credible clinical evidence that antioxidant dietary supplements, whether they be Vitamins C or E, or the many, much more expensive ones vigorously flogged by the alternative wellness industry, have any demonstrable benefit on human health or longevity. One reason for this might be the fact that the body is already replete with natural antioxidants such as bilirubin, a degradation product of hemoglobin. See The antioxidant myth: a medical fairy tale that was published in the 5 August 2006 New Scientist.

There are hundreds of Web sites hawking these products. According to one such site, "Microclusters are powerful, tiny mineral clusters that energize virtually all nutrients with which they come into contact. These clusters act as microscopic transport vehicles, dramatically reducing the size of nutrients and delivering them directly into the cells." They seem especially strong on free-radical fighters: "One capsule of [our product] provides more electrons than a truck load of other antioxidants." (Chemistry students: what do you think about that?!)

In an attempt to build an image of scientific respectability, the Flanagan people have managed to get a few scientific studies published in a few journals of highly dubious quality:

Cory Stephanson, B.S., Anne Stephanson, B.A., and G. Patrick Flanagan, M.D., Ph. D: Antioxidant capability and efficacy of Mega-H Silica Hydride, an antioxidant dietary supplement, by in vitro cellular analysis using photosensitization and fluorescence detection. J. Medicinal Food 5(1) 2002 pg. 9 [download PDF document]

K. Lloyd, M.S., W. Wasmund, M.S., Leonard Smith, M.D., and Peter B. Raven, Ph.D: Clinical effects of a dietary antioxidant silicate supplement, Microhydrin®, on cardiovascular response to exercise. J. Medicinal Food 4(3) 2001

The Journal of Medicinal Food seems to be a favorite place to publish stuff whose authors place degrees (often phony ones) after their names. The second article, whose senior author has a Ph.D. in physical education and who appears to be the only legitimate faculty researcher cited in any of the references, reports a double-blind study of six subjects in which reduced blood lactate concentrations were observed following 40-km simulated bicycling trials. I'll leave it to those more knowledgable about physiology than me to evaluate these papers.

Cory Stephanson, C. Duffy, Anne Stephanson, G. Patrick Flanagan: Evidence of stable hydrides in an aqueous environment using modern analytical techniques. (Download PDF document]

This paper, purporting to be from the U. of Minnessota Chemistry Dept (where none of the authors is listed in the faculty directory), was, according to a reference in another Flanagan publication, submitted to the Journal of the American Chemical Society, but as of January 2003 it had not been published, and I very much doubt that a journal of this quality would accept such "evidence" as is reported here. Other chemists can draw their own conclusions, but I think it is bunk.

Some Flanagan Fantasy that you might find hard to swallow

I look here at the claims for two products: Crystal Energy® (immediately below) and MicroHydrin® - Macrohydrin®. The text in the left column is quoted verbatim as it was found on one of the sales sites in late 2001. The "purple prose" identifies portions of these claims that I consider wrong, misleading, or nonsensical.

Crystal Energy®

 the blarney

 the science

When Crystal Energy is added to water it makes it "The Most Biologically Active Water in The World", according to Dr. Patrick Flanagan.

An utterly meaningless statement. A solution of sodium cyanide would be an even more "biologically active" water!

When Crystal Energy made with Flanagan Microclusters added to water --- water molecules which are clumped together and inactive become separate and active and charged so they can easily pass through a cell wall carrying nutrients, removing wastes and rehydrating the cell itself. (usvitamin.com)

This "clumping" (which chemists call "hydrogen bonding" is weak and transient, and in no way renders the H2O molecules "inactive". Passage of these molecules through cell membranes is well understood and requires no help from patent nostrums. And contrary to the implication here, nutrients and wastes are not "carried" by water, but by special trans-membrane processes that involve water only indirectly.

Crystal Energy is a catalytic liquid which, when added to other liquids, enhances their solvency power by altering their molecular structure.

Use Crystal Energy concentrate... in all drinking water... in other beverages, especially juice and tea.... to rinse vegetables and fruits... to cut cooking time of many foods... on cut flowers to maintain their freshness... to mist house plants... to catalyze your bath or spa water... to wet your toothbrush, add to your favorite mouthwash... to prevent nicks while shaving...mixed with your shampoo and other hair care products.

It is highly unlikely that any chemist would consider this a "catalyst". Any chemical substance that is capable of "altering.. molecular structure" of a liquid must be pretty powerfull stuff— not something I would want to drink!

Cut cooking time of foods? Prevent nicks while shaving? C'mon... is there any evidence for any of this?

Microcluster® minerals are unique in that they have a very high electrical charge (zeta potential) and are small enough to be easily utilized. The charge on ordinary colloidal minerals is not very high or very stable, so ordinary low energy colloidal minerals have little or no effect on the structure of water. Colloids that are found in dead sea beds and mineral clays are devoid of zeta potential and are too large to be used by the living system. Zeta Potential represents a basic Law of Nature. It plays a vital role in all forms of plant and animal life. It is the force that maintains the discreetness of the billions of circulating cells that nourish the organism.

First, some definitions: colloids are small particles (such as the butterfat droplets in milk) which tend to be surrounded by an "electric double layer" of adsorbed molecules or ions. The zeta potential refers to the electrical properties of this layer which, by causing like-charged particles to repel each other, keeps them from settling out. So far, so good. What is bunk, however, is the implication that minerals and nutrients are taken up in colloidal form, of that the local water structure (which is altered near any charged particle) is of any significance. Contrary to what they say, colloidal minerals are too large to be utilizized.

When Flanagan Microclusters® are diluted for drinking, they have such powerful surface energies that the resulting drop in surface tension is remarkable. In distilled water, the immediate drop is between 55 to 65 dynes per centimeter.

Surface tension is a measure of the tendency of liquids to form drops, as opposed to spreading out on a surface. The unusually high surface tension of water (72 dynes/cm at 25°C) reflects the relatively strong attractive forces between H2O molecules. Almost anything you dissolve in water will reduce its surface tension, so all these numbers tell us is that the Flanagan concentrate actually does add something to the water. If you want a still lower surface tension, you can always add a detergent!

Hunza water1 has a surface tension of 68, this means that water treated with Crystal Energy® concentrate has an even lower surface tension and a greater Zeta Potential2.

1 The people of the Hunza Valley in Northern Pakistan are said to enjoy extradorinarily long lifetimes, so anything connected with them— their food, water, or maybe even the air they breathe— is taken as endorsement of hundreds of alternative health Web sites. Apparently, however, this is mostly myth. See this informative article on the Hunza.

2 Nonsense! All this means is that the Flanagan water is more impure. Zeta potential has nothing to do with this.

Assimilation of nutrients and vitamins from our foods is largely dependent on our body's ability to wet and process nutrients in the digestive system. The ability to wet foods depends on the zeta potential and surface tension of our digestive fluids. Crystal Energy® concentrate can help you to get the most from your food and vitamin supplements.

More Flanagan blarney. The only foods components that are not already been wetted by the time they have been swallowed are fats, and these are processed in the intestine after having been emulsified by the detergent-like action of the bile. Again, the magical "zeta potential" has nothing to do with this. The idea that anyone in normal health requires a supplement of this kind in order to digest food properly is errant nonsense and pure commercial hype.

The University of Minnesota examined the colloids present in Crystal Energy® concentrate with an Electron Microscope. These tests revealed that Flanagan Microcluster colloids are spherical in shape and average about 5 nanometers in diameter. This means that each particle is about 12 atoms in diameter!

So what? Your cells will only take up the mineral elements it needs on an atom-by-atom (one ion at a time) basis.

Found at {this site}:

In water, minute cluster colloids exhibit a property known as "hydrophobic hydration".1 This occurs as water molecules form cage like structures around suspended particles. The resemble various ployhedrea, the smallest being the dodecaheron. Interestingly, the tetrahedron, of which structure the single water molecule has, is a root shape of which all the other symmetrical solids can be unfolded out of. These cage structures contain the hydrophobic particles within, thereby ordering water so much that Gibbs Free Energy, G, is increased significantly.2 Free energy represents the amount of energy available in a system to do work. J. willard Gibbs developed the formula for free energy, used extensively in Chemistry: G = U –TS + pV, where U represents internal energy of heat content, S is entropy, T is time, p is pressure and V is volume.3

Well, they have this half-right, which also means half-wrong!

1 All small non-polar molcules show this effect; I don't know whether it occurs with colloids, but I doubt it.

2 The fact that G increases is the reason that these substances are not very soluble in the first place; this hardly seems like an efficient way to get mineral ions into the body!

3 Whoever wrote this gets an "F" in thermodynamics. T is the temperature, not the time, stupid! And the pV part applies only to gases!

Microhydrin and Megahydrin

These are supposed to be anti-oxidants and free-redical fighters that protect the body by supplying electrons to wherever they are needed. The only problem is that they claim to contain free hydride ions in the form of "silicon hydride". It's a long time since I studied inorganic chemistry, but as I recall, silicon does not form a true hydride (that is, one that contains the hydride ion, as is found in sodium hydride)-- and if it did, I wouldn't want to have anything to do with it, since hydride ions decompose water, yielding hydrogen gas (the ultimate explosive burp!) and hydroxide ion, which dissolves flesh. So maybe they mean the "generic" silicon hydride, SiH4, whose common name is silane. But silane is a reactive, poisonous gas— hardly something they could get into their microclustered colloidal solids, even if they would want to. If, despite the lack of suporting clinical evidence, you believe in antioxidants and radical-scavengers, you would do well to get them them in forms such as vitamin C, vitamin E, green tea, and red wine.

Flanagan Text

Comment

Increases cellular hydration; may decrease water’s surface tension, enabling more water, and the nutrients dissolved in water, to enter cells and become available for use by the body.

What do they mean "may"? It either does or it does not. No matter, surface tension has nothing to do with passage of water into cells anyway.

Microhydrin is a mineral (silica, potassium, magnesium) formed into extremely small negatively charged colloids (nanocolloids) that have been saturated with hydrogen.1 ... Its function is to provide literally trillions of hydrogen anions2 capable of donating electrons into body fluids. Electrons ...are abundantly available in organically grown raw vegetables, fruits, and grains, but are deficient in our modern diet of over-cooked, acidic, or highly oxidized foods, beverages, and drinking water.3 [link here]

1 Hydrogen gas is only slighly soluble in most substances that you would want to take into your body.

2 How H2 gets changed into H ions is not explained, and I don't believe it happens.

3 The implication that organic foods are less acidic or more oxidized is unfounded, as is the idea that a reducing agent (electron source) can restore or improve them.

Microhydrin is the most potent free radical fighter available anywhere today. It allows our internal environment to maintain a higher level of electrical conductivity, which is critical for healthy cell functioning. [from the Microhydrin site]

Electrical conductivity is important only in the indirect sense that it depends on the ionic strength (charge concentrations) of intracellular fluids, which must be maintained within rather narrow limits by various transport processes. The implication that "higher" conductivity is desirable is silly.

When Microhydrin comes in contact with stomach fluids, the formulation time-releases negatively charged hydrogen ions.1 These ions cause a reduction in oxidation potential (Redox) in the body2, helping to create an internal environment that simultaneously promotes healthy cell growth and function, and discourages the proliferation of undesirable organisms, which prefer more acidic (less alkaline) conditions3 inside the body.

1 These are called hydride ions H. Any release of such ions would decompose water into hydrogen gas (H2) and hydroxide ions (OH); it would be equivalent to introducing lye into your body. Do you really want this?

2 The "redox potential of the body" is not a definable quantity, since it varies greatly from place to place. In any event, it is the net result of many competing processes, and any significant change in its value would seriously disrupt most metabolic processes.

3 The pH of intercellular and intracellular fluids is similarly controlled to within quite narrow limits. Any significant change in blood pH would be fatal.

Some scientific-sounding research reports on Microhydrin describe "double-blind placebo" studies of various kinds, purporting to measure "cellular hydration" by means of the same "RJL Bioelectrical Impedance Analyzer" that is apparently unknown to conventional physiologists but seems to be the mainstay of the alternative wellness marketers, including CellCore. These abstracts also discuss studies on the effects of Microhydrin on the electrical conductivity of blood, saliva and urine, "urine alkenal/creatinine ratios" and "mitochondrial .. membrane potentials." Other studies reveal that "Microhydrin® can inhibit the superoxide-mediated reduction of cytochrome c, indicating that it can scavenge the superoxide free radical." All doubtless very impressive, and easily duplicated by any number of other mild reducing agents such as Vitamin C.

If you know some chemistry, this Negative Hydrogen Ion Web site
will be good for laughs.