Oxygenated water is a chemical con. Don’t buy it. Don’t drink it.

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A great many existential crises can be easily solved with a mirror (or taking a selfie) because problems of paramount personal intrigue are easily rectified by just looking at one’s reflection. Take for example this timeless question that has plagued the human psyche for ages: am I a fish? If upon inspection you find no epidermal slits on your cheeks or neck, well, congratulations! – you are not a fish. What does this actually say about you? Two things: 1.) you’ll drown if submerged underwater for a long period of time; and 2:) you don’t need to drink oxygenated water. Yep, that’s right.

You’ll drown.

Not because you can’t breathe underwater, but because you’ll have to guzzle gallons and gallons of oxygenated water just so you can really torture your body to absorb the promised benefits of drinking it. But what is this strange elixir that I am talking about?

My first encounter with this strange drink was in Singapore, when I found myself street sauntering for no good reason (as is my wont). It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, just to waste space: Singapore is amazing. It is so because of the enormous wealth the city-country has accumulated and continues to accumulate for being a global leader in finance and technology. Being so, the people of this rich country need things to spend their wealth on, regardless of actual use or real health value. I suspect this was one of the reasons why a fashionable young couple bought a bottle each of oxygenated water in the convenience store I was in. It got me interested. I had to check this luxurious libation. I bought one.

I’m kidding. I didn’t. It’s too expensive.

Upon further investigation I found out that oxygenated water is nothing but a global marketing fad meant to fool the unsuspecting buyer that their noses are ill-equipped to harvest all the oxygen they need and that their stomachs also function as lungs. Let me explain why.

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Take a close look at this extremely expensive Life O2 Super Oxygenated Water. According to its sales pitch, drinking it “has been shown to increase the oxygen content of the blood resulting in lower, healthier pulse rate and enhanced athletic performance.” What this says is that oxygen levels in the blood can be easily manipulated just by water intake. This is a very bold and dangerous claim to make. How are we to know if this is true or not? As we’re committed to the altar of material inquiry, we must design an experiment based on the guidance of science. Since I am a disciple of that great self-experimenter J.B.S. Haldane, I would like to propose this very simple experiment where you need not busy yourself with finding a subject, because you are the subject. The first thing you have to do is to prohibit your nose and mouth from inhaling air. This would ensure that your lungs have no access to oxygen, thus lowering blood oxygen levels. If you are about to faint from asphyxiation – don’t breathe still – grab a bottle of oxygenated water, gulp it, and check if it’s the same as if you’ve just breathed. If not, then you can use your nose and mouth again, only if you’ve made it this far.

In all seriousness, this jocular experiment is only designed to emphasize how ridiculous the claims made by these beverage companies are. But despite the jest, it also shows basic yet important lessons in anatomy and physiology which are bypassed and forgotten by crude advertising. Underneath the health spiel is a sly attempt to support and spread ignorance.

If we go by levels of organizations, we can divide the body into multiple categories and groups. The usual textbook way to go about it is to start from the most rudimentary up to the most complex: from cells to tissues, from tissues to organs, and from organs to systems. Most important for our discussion are the last two: sometimes called organ systems.

“These companies are drowning in money from fooling people. Your actual health and well-being are the least of their concerns. They want your money. Nothing else. And they do that by using science words in order to make their products sound legitimate and believable.”

We need to breathe air. We just can’t help it. It’s our evolutionary handicap and heritage as oxygen dependent organisms. To satisfy this need, we have evolved special organs. For fish, they have gills. For us humans, we have lungs. But our lungs are inside and it doesn’t have immediate contact with air. Luckily, we also have noses that serve as entry tunnels for air to go inside. By shifts in pressure within the lungs, our bodies can suck air from the outside environment, air that not only consists of oxygen, but also of many other elements. This is a process called respiration, and the organs committed to this task are part of the respiratory system. Interestingly enough, the nose is not the only doorway for air to enter our insides. Another organ, known for its ability to suck and swallow also acts as a secondary entrance door for air: the mouth. This means that air and food from our mouths enter our bodies through a single common pathway, a pathway called the pharynx. But since we can’t digest air, nor can we respire food, the body needs to segregate entering materials so each will arrive at their designated destinations. At the back of our mouths is an organ called the epiglottis. It acts like an airport luggage security inspector. Air. Air. Food? Water. Food. Air. What is this strange liquid? Air. Food. Air. If it senses that air entering, the epiglottis opens, leading gas particles to the body’s windpipe, the trachea. When food is about to be swallowed, the epiglottis closes, blocking entrance to the trachea and leading food down the other tunnel, the esophagus. It is the anatomical equivalent of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. This is by no means a perfect system, and there are sporadic slip-ups, which remind you of that unpleasant airport experience over baggage mishandling and misplacement. Occasionally, the epiglottis sleeps on the job, giving some swallowed food items the bright idea of a life of crime. Ok, but what if we go the other way – the road less taken? They do. You choke. Cough. Cough. Death has come to take you away.

Die we shall if we really want oxygenated water to deliver its promise. Since water is digested, it gets directed to our stomachs after we drink it. And that’s the main reason why oxygenated water is simply unnecessary. Our stomachs are simply not built to harness oxygen from digested matter for respiration. It’s our lungs that do that. There are really minute sacs called alveoli inside our lungs where blood gets oxygen. It serves like a canteen where red blood cells receive their oxygen lunch and pack it inside their hemoglobin backpacks before they go about their daily business. Now, if oxygenated water accidentally enters our lungs, whatever health benefits that it might bring are automatically rendered pointless, as buildup of unwanted liquid material in the lungs can lead to a breathtaking episode of pulmonary edema.

These companies are drowning in money from fooling people. Your actual health and well-being are the least of their concerns. They want your money. Nothing else. And they do that by using science words in order to make their products sound legitimate and believable.

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One blatant example is this pathetic business blurb by Oxigen. Not content with just stuffing their water with your everyday O2, they went further in the competition by infusing their water products with O4! That’s right. O4. Tetraoxygen. Four oxygen atoms. One oxygen atom more than ozone, O3. While this is obviously chemically careless, the people at Oxigen thought that this was a bright idea. According to their about section, their rationale for doing so was simply because “O4 remains stable in water for up to two years”, so “it meant that the uplifting power of oxygen could be bottled – so we bottled it.” What the fuck. Their assumption is that O2 is the same as O4, only O4 has more oxygen atoms, therefore it has more of those beneficial effects that oxygen supposedly have. But hold your breaths for a minute. If this were true, then why is ozone highly toxic to us? Also, water, which has a molecular formula of H2O, becomes poisonous and flammable if you add another oxygen atom to it, turning it into hydrogen peroxide, H2O2. Adding an oxygen atom doesn’t necessarily make things healthy or beneficial. 

Unfortunately, scientific explanations and expositions aren’t enough to dissuade people from making the wrong decisions. After all, a lot still believe in garbage like astrology, feng shui, elections, ghosts, Duterte, homeopathy, intelligent design, numerology, etc. People will believe whatever it is that can give them comfort and relief. That’s why they don’t really care wasting large amounts of money on rubbish. In short: you can spend your extra money on whatever you want (but if you’re still looking for a place to investment, why not send some amount to Scidols as upgrades and more features are planned for next year?). Perhaps looking at the mirror is just not enough to quell the queries of the soul. Like the evil witch in Cinderella, maybe the mirror only reveals harsh truths that add to the crises. Perhaps people want to drink oxygenated water so they can drown their humanity and go back to their marine evolutionary past. I’d like to believe that.

It makes perfect sense.

After all, like adding extra oxygen, if you add an extra S to poison, it becomes poisson, which is French for fish.

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