One of the baybs from the Bay sent us this juicy tidbit: The Kangen Water Maker. Behind this slick website is another 'miracle' water treatment that can solve your problems of indigestion, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and constipation (among other things). It's good for non-health applications too: artists and painters can expect more vibrant hues and smoother strokes when their paints are mixed with alkaline water! Apparantly Kangen means 'return to original' in Japanese (according to one seller) which is ironic because pure, unadulterated water should have a pH of 7 not the pH 8-9.5 that these guys suggest you drink.
How does it work? The Kangen water maker is basically an electrolysis machine that uses dissolved minerals to acidify or alkalize water. This alkaline water, they claim, contains water molecules that cluster in groups of 5-7 instead of 10-14 like 'normal' water. The theory is that the smaller molecular grouping allows the water to travel to places regular water can't, making it better for hydration and delivery of nutrients. Additionally, they claim that Kangen water alters body pH, which prevents acid build up, an associated leaching of calcium from bone and increase in fatty acid deposits.
Why doesn't it work? Even if you can maintain alkaline water for more than a transient period of time (this is accomplished by adding minerals to the water, which can alter the taste - just think about drinking 'hard' water which is also alkaline) as soon as it hits the strong acids of the stomach any alkalinity will be neutralized. Not to mention there seems to be no scientific evidence that this clustering effect is real or that it would be anything more than fleetingly transient. Most studies support the idea of a dynamically changing, disordered water structure. Not to mention that there are water quacks out there who pitch acidic water or water with LARGER clusters as the true 'healing' water.
Of course this has all the standard hallmarks of quackery to go with the pseudoscience: untested medical claims and large disclaimers about lack of FDA review. Some sellers are part of multi-level marketing schemes, and one goes so far as to combine his selling of water ionizers with marine phytoplankton for 'the best whole food nutrition available' and our pet favourite StemEnhance.
For a more in-depth analysis of the pseudoscience of alkaline water, this chemist from SFU does a pretty thorough debunking.