Research on this issue has been profoundly confused, and apparently back when someone in Japan filed for a license to manufacture and sell electrolyzed water machines, a.k.a. ionizers, in ca 1962 no one had an explanation for the apparent health benefits, but the most readily observable feature of ERW (Electrolyzed Reduced Water), was its elevated pH, and hence the alkalinity of the water was mistaken for the explanation for its apparent health benefits. Except... that explanation made no sense. For more information see the website of the Molecular Hydrogen Foundation, and their page on Water Ionizers.
Looking a bit deeper, the Alkaline water from electrolysis also seemed to have anti-oxidant properties, and for a while the industry became obsessed with the ORP as a presumed indicator of the anti-oxidant properties of the water, but that was not the answer either. It would not be till 1997, when research published by Prof. Sanetaka Shirahata of Kyoto University finally put the world on the right track. The key to it all was the presence of H- ions (Hydride) in ERW, some thing that had previously been considered impossible, as it was thought H- could not persist but for a few nano seconds.
The ERW vs Alkalinity confusion
In the end it turns out that neither the high pH, nor the low ORP are the issue, merely corollaries to what is going on, which is the formation of H- ions, a.k.a. active hydrogen, the negative hydrogen ion, more usually called Hydride. Ionizers may produce alkaline water, but that has nothing to do with the price of beans. What they are is water electrolysis machines, that is at least an accurate description of what they do. Electrolyzed water machine is a workable nomenclature, since otherwise it is such a mouthful. They produce two outputs from ordinary tap water, one alkaline and the other acidic, one good for drinking and the other for cleaning/disinfection. However, the only satisfactory explanation for the health benefits were documented in the above referenced article in BBRC (Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications), in 1997. The principal author was Prof. Sanetaka Shirahata, of Kyushu University. To all intents and purposes this is the seminal article on the health benefits of drinking ERW.
The machines are still widely marketed as 'ionizers' or 'alkaline water' machines, Electrolyzed Water Machines, and many other names. As noted, alkalinity of the water is a mere side effect. If the alkalinity were of the essence, you could add minerals to your water for pennies per gallon, and you would not need another pricey piece of household equipment.
Back in 1997, when Prof. Sanetaka Shirahata published his paper demonstrating the effectiveness of ERW (Electrolyzed Reduced Water) as an anti-oxidant, it was somewhat controversial that he ascribed that effect to the persistence of H-, the negative hydrogen ion, or hydride in water, presumably for as much as 30 days.
Here is the reference to the article:
“Electrolyzed-Reduced Water Scavenges Active Oxygen Species and Protects DNA from Oxidative Damage”
Sanetaka Shirahata, Shirgeru Kabayama, Mariko Nakano, Takumi Miura, Kenichi Kusumoto, Miho Gotoh, Hidemitsu Hayashi, Kazumichi Otsubo, Shinkatsu Morisawa, and Yoshinori Katakura
Published in: Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Vol. 234, No.1, May 8, 1997I was in Japan in 1999 and met with Nihon-Trim, the manufacturer of ERW machines, who was also one of the sponsors of Prof. Shirahata's work. I also met with Dr. Hidemitso Hayashi, a cardiologist who was a participant in that study, and a big actor in the ERW industry. In 1996 he had published a book in Japanese: "Active Hydrogen Liberates Mankind from Disease," (Japanese, ISBN 4-8454-1133-4). Dr. Hayashi parted ways with the manufacturers of "water ionizers" because he claimed to have found a cheaper, better way to produce H- in water, with a mineral-based stick to stir the water. The ERW people thought he was crazy, because theoretically it should take energy to produce the H- ion. Hayashi persisted, and you can find his information a.o. here: http://www.hydrogeninmywaterbottle.com and his Amazon page, here (mostly Japanese only).
Hydride Rich WaterIt may now be time for a new acronym: HRW, Hydrogen Rich Water. Note that the Japanese, with Dr. Hayashi leading the parade, have a habit of speaking of Hydrogen Rich water, but the proper word in English of the H- ionic form is Hydride, as was pointed out to me by an old friend, Prof. Edward Dratz, of the Biochemistry Dept. of Montana State University. However, a valid reason to stick to the term Hydrogen Rich Water may be the fact that the rH (relative Hydrogen score), actually measures all simple forms of H, inclucing H2, H-, as Vinny Pinto points out in his article on the issue. Stick to the abbreviation HRW, which is the same in either case.
On the same site you can also find extensive documentation of both the theory and the research of Hydrogen rich water.
In conclusion, consumption of hydrogen rich water generated via a magnesium stick demonstrated improvement in the levels of oxidative stress markers associated with metabolic syndrome and boosted the body’s antioxidant activity. Hydrogen rich water represents a potentially novel therapeutic and preventive strategy for the treatment of metabolic syndrome. This method of delivery was advantageous as magnesium sticks are portable and proved to be an easy and safe administration of hydrogen rich water for daily consumption.
Meanwhile I also notice that there are now a growing number of products available that claim to achieve the same results , under names like Alkaline Water Stick, Power Ionic Health Ion Water Purifier Stick (I did not make that up), Portable Water Ionizer Alkaline Water Stick, Second Stage Hydro Pen and Third Stage Hydro Pen, and a Santevia Alkaline Water Stick. I have no idea how good they all are.
The Relative Hydrogen Score, rHSome of the claims are bound to be bogus, especially if they focus on alkalinity. You can always use an ORP meter, and you should be seeing a negative value, probably in the -150 to -200 range. But ORP alone is not an absolute indicator of anti-oxidant value. You need to compute the rH, relative Hydrogen score, which is a truer indication of the anti-oxidant properties of the water, to find out. The formula is discussed here:
- Simply put, rH = ((ORP + 205) / 29.58 + (2 x pH)).
- The scale runs from zero to 42, and below 28 the water is reducing, and above 28 it is oxidizing.