Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Something in the Water.

Oxygen 4 Life, singled out for mention by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia as a "dubious" remedy, makes some startling health claims.
It's a great refresher the morning after a night on the grog! [...] Oxygen 4 Life assists in restoring blood oxygen levels. Toxic stress depletes oxygen in the body.

EoR agrees that water is a great refresher for a hangover given the way it rehydrates the body... But what the hell is "toxic stress"?

The FAQ rather gives the game away, explaining exactly what's in the product. Well, sort of, if you consider scientific obfuscation an answer:
Oxygen 4 Life is made from natural ingredients. They are de-ionised water, a small amount of Atlantic Sea Salt and at least 125,000 parts per million bio-available charged** oxygen at manufacture. (**‘charged’ oxygen means electrically activated).

So, to summarise, that's salt-free water with some salt added?

Like other non-proven "health" products, Oxygen 4 Life likes to claim the imprimatur of NASA research (in passing, EoR wonders if all NASA does is research off-the-wall alternative therapies?):
This discovery, called Di-atomic oxygen, could deliver 30 times more oxygen than tap water. Although it was never commercially developed by NASA it was widely used in the space program.

Since the atmosphere consists of 21% diatomic oxygen (ie O2) breathing is probably a more efficient, and cheaper way, of obtaining oxygen.

Like every other non-therapeutic food product of its ilk, it is nonetheless a miracle capable of raising the dead and restoring vigour, as the many testimonials prove (as much as testimonials prove anything, of course):
I am amazed at the way I feel within days of taking Oxygen 4 life. I have more energy and a better frame of mind, better memory, clearer vision and a greater interest in life and things in general. I am truly astounded at the speed in which true wellness and vitality was restored to my mind, body and spirit. I believe that this Is a miracle product which could give everybody a renewed vigor and a better sense of humour - it may even eliminate road rage, who knows!

Exactly. Who knows? Eor doesn't. He suspects the amazed testator doesn't. And he's pretty certain that the manufacturer doesn't know either (though, to their credit, there are clear health benefits to them from all the money rolling in).

Never mind the scientific proof (actually, just an analysis showing the sample provided had a pH of 8.2 and an oxygen equivalence of >12.5% - seawater, by comparison, has a pH of 8.5 to 10 and pure water is neutral at 7 - so, if you really feel the need to imbibe something rather than just breathing air, drinking seawater might be the way to go), when you can get a real live right wing talkback radio demagogue to promote your product!
"We can lose oxygen daily through stress, pollution, Greens, do-gooders, feminazis, tree-huggers and the bandy brigade, not to mention physical exertion. We can however reinvigorate our body's oxygen with Oxygen 4 [pause] Life it's called, the unique new oxygen [pause] liquid [longer pause - is he losing his place in the ad copy?] supplement. [...] I'll drink it. [slurp] It's all right. It tastes like salt water. [pause] Belch. Excuse me.

Oxygen 4 Life is now expanding into the UK market as well, as reported by the Guardian (in a piece that, despite a brief paragraph from a GP querying the efficacy of this product) sounds like an advertising puff piece.

There are, however, some dissenting voices. The Sydney Morning Herald has an article by Professor John Dwyer, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of NSW, pointing out the difference between advertising and research which is blurred or non-existent in the minds of most of the public.
Perhaps the most regrettable aspect of the bogus health-care market is that it is so strongly supported by people trained to be professional pharmacists. These people are trusted by the public, which doesn't deserve to have such professionals, with expertise in scientific method, foisting on it preparations they know are useless. Too many appear to have heeded the advice given to them by Marcus Blackmore, who, in promoting a range of "alternative" products, emphasised to pharmacists the financial rewards associated with "capitalising on consumer sentiment".

Oxygen 4 Life has also been the subject of a formal complaint under the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code in 2005 where it was found that, despite the manufacturer arguing that it made no medical or therapeutic claims,
the Panel was satisfied that the advertisement was an advertisement for therapeutic goods.

Oxygen 4 Life was ordered to, among other things,
withdraw all representations which suggest that the product is a liquid oxygen supplement, oxygen supplement, oxygen therapy in a bottle, etc

It is clear from their website just how much attention they have paid to this requirement.

EoR suggests that, rather than getting a few extra molecules of oxygen from magic water, you'd be better off to use EPO, train at high altitudes, use a hyperbaric chamber, give up smoking, exercise, or try breathing air.

Finally, Water pseudoscience and quackery provides masses of information on the alternatistas' various magic waters, including a whole page on oxygenated water scams.


  1. It works! Just reading about it made me hyperventilate.

  2. Since the atmosphere consists of 21% diatomic oxygen (ie O2) breathing is probably a more efficient, and cheaper way, of obtaining oxygen.

    I have a feeling these people only receive their oxygen through their mouths.


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