Penta Water pseudoscience


Penta Water is one of many bottled waters whose manufacturers claim to have "restructured" the water in some way that provides special health benefits. In my opinion, there is no credible scientfic evidence for either the altered water structure or for the health benefits.

Penta Water has been marketed for several years, formerly by a company known as Bio-Hydration Research Labs. It is sometimes referred to as "Penta-Hydrate Water". The principal marketing claims are that it is "the purest bottled water on the market", and that it is "restructured" to reduce the "cluster size", making it more amenable to uptake by the body.

Penta Water is made by a succession of steps, the details of which have varied (6 steps until early 2005, 14 since then.) In general, these steps include various forms of filtration, reverse osmosis, de-ionization, UV-light, "molecular redefinition" (currently referred to as the "Penta Process) and oxygenation treatment. All except the last two are conventional and generally effective methods that are widely employed in both domestic water treatment and in the manufacture of bottled beverages. The descriptions of the last two of these treatments (on an earlier Web page) are rather weird and lack scientific support.

The description of the Molecular Redefinition process concludes with the following ungrammatical sentence: "Penta processing tank where the water molecule clusters are reduced using a patent pending physics process. " There is no evidence in the reputable scientific literature that the structure of pure water can be altered by any type of treatment. Please see the Cluster Quackery page.
"The final treatment step is in the oxygenation tank where molecular oxygen is dissolved into the water at a very high concentration. The purpose of oxygenation ... is to create a partial pressure drive mechanism that within the intestines will deliver the water into the blood stream faster." The highlighted portion of this statement is pseudoscientific nonsense. The presence of dissolved oxygen in the gut has nothing to do with uptake of water by the blood. The current oxygenation level is claimed to be only 40-60 ppm

(The purple background indicates claims that I consider false, misleading or meaningless)

Following are some other claims found on sites promoting Penta Water; those portions which I consider to be "junk science" are in colored type.

Bio-Hydration Research Lab .. has developed a patented process to reduce water containing mostly large molecular clusters into water with a stable, high concentration of smaller clusters. Because Penta water is “thinner,” the body does not have to break down as many of the clusters in order to use it to hydrate cells There is no evidence that water cluster size can be changed, or that any benefit could accrue if any such changes were possible. The claim that Penta water is "thinner" appears to be contradicted by the statement below that it has a "higher viscosity than normal water."
Penta is the Purest Bottled Water on the Market No justifcation of this claim is offered. There is no evidence that chemically "pure" water is any healthier or more beneficial than any water that meets EPA drinking water standards. Their claim that it is highly "pure" is inconsistent with the claim that it has different physical properties (see below) than ordinary water.

Penta is the Only Bottled Water with a Patented Physics Process

A recently-issued U.S. Patent 6521248 describes the way in which this product is presumably made by subjecting water to rapid variations in pressure that are supposed to create gas bubbles that break up the water structure and create a "plasma" of negative ions that confer antioxidant properties. There is no scientific basis for these claims; I suspect that this is a typical "junk patent" intended more for marketing than for protection of a real invention. I was unable to find any registration record of the "Penta Water" trademark in the U.S.P.T.O. database.
Some sales site have claimed that in vitro studies show that Penta Water increases "cell survivability by 266%", dissolves kidney stone material three times faster than normal water, and decreases "DNA chromosomal mutation rates" to 29% compared to distilled water. [link] No references are given to these unverifiable studies.
"Penta has been shown through highly technical scientific testing (Raman spectroscopy) to have 30 percent smaller molecular water clusters. It has also been observed that Penta has a higher boiling point and higher viscosity than normal water. Penta’s unique structure is also patented and has been verified in a published, peer-reviewed study conducted by scientists at Moscow’s General Physics Institute." [link] This is erroneous nonsense; the "bonds" between water molecules are so weak that they are continually being broken and reformed on a nanosecond time scale. Moreover, the attractions that the water channels in the cell walls exert on each H2O molecule are greater than those between molecules, so H2O molecules pop through the channels without the need for any outside help.
Penta's proprietary anti-oxidant and cellular regenerative abilities make it well suited for application to the skin. Preliminary evidence suggests that Penta's ability to absorb through the skin enables the rebuilding of collagen in the dermis. [link] The idea that a water to which oxygen has been added can have anti-oxidant properties defies common sense. There is no scientific evidence that any kind of water can be absorbed through the skin, let alone aid the "rebuilding of collagen".

One of the Penta pages gives several references to "research" that allegedly supports some of the manufacturer's claims. In my view, they do not:

A.F. Bunkin, A.A. Nyrmatov, and S.M. Pershin: Study of Cluster Molecular Structures in Various Types of Liquid WatersUsing Spontaneous Raman Spectroscopy. Physics of Vibrations 10(2) 2002. This obscure Russian journal has changed its name to Physics of Wave Phenomena . The authors observe slightly narrower O-H-stretching band widths in Penta water, which they interpret as indicative of somewhat smaller average hydrogen-bond concentration per unit volume, and thus, smaller "cluster" size. One weakness of this paper is the lack of any clear characterization of the experimental and control samples. In my experience, Russian work of this kind, often sponsored by commercial interests, is frequently unreliable.
" In September 2002, scientists at the Moscow University conducted a study to compare the effects of Penta on intracellular alkalinity/acidity. ..." The absence of any specific reference makes it impossible to confirm this apparently unpublished study. The concept of "intracellular alkalinity/acidity" in this context is meaninless pseudoscience.
"Moscow University scientists also conducted a study to gauge the effects of Penta on cell survivability. Comparing cells cultured in Penta to cells cultured in double distilled water scientists concluded that cells prepared in Penta water demonstrated an increase in cell survivability of 266 percent." The absence of any specific reference makes it impossible to confirm this apparently unpublished study. It is highly unlikely that cells of any kind could survive the osmotic stress associatd with a distilled water medium, so this conclusion strikes me as nonsense.
" In October 2001, a study was completed at the University of St. Thomas Department of Health and Human Performance in St. Paul, Minnesota, which demonstrated a significant increase in athletic performance..." Another apparently unpublished (and unverifiable) study.

AquaRx AquaPhoneyonics

The {AquaRx Research} site appears to be a classier and more "scientific" looking promotion for Penta Water technology. There are links to a legitimate (albeit irrelevant) scientific paper on nuclear-spin isomers of water, and others to what seem intended to look like scientific articles but bear no author's names or publication information. One of these is titled "Comparison of distilled & AquaRx, water for staining of cervical cancer cells", which could easily mislead a lay person to think that the product could be useful as a diagnostic tool for this disease.

UK Advertising Standards Council ruling on Penta Water

The British equivalent of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has issued the following ruling in response to complaints about some of Penta's claims:

"The Authority concluded that the information submitted was not sufficient to prove Penta water had health benefits over and above those of ordinary water or was structured differently from ordinary water. The Authority told the advertisers not to repeat claims that implied the product was chemically unique, had been restructured or molecularly redesigned, or hydrated cells and improved physical performance better than tap water."

Some other commentaries on Penta Water

James Randi shares some of his thoughts on this product

Guardian's "Bad Science" column: Penta backs out of Randi challenge

Wikipedia article on Penta Water

Better than Penta: "Skepta Water's" 96-step purification process