Outrageous claims of advertising.

This unit of work was adapted from an article written by Ben Goldacre
Thursday January 27, 2005, The Guardian. It investigates the advertising of Penta Water, pictured on the right. Most of the advertising material referred to in his article can be sourced from the site below. http://www.bhawkindustries.com/blank?pageid=15&catstart=0&prodstart=0

Some of the claims made on the site for Penta Water, as accessed on 11.00 am 29 December 2009, are listed below.

"A number of world-renowned scientists are studying Penta water and its positive effects. Among the studies completed are several indicating that Penta can help improve athletic performance, reduce acid load inside cells, increase the time cells live in adverse circumstances, and even reduce chromosomal mutation rates! Penta can do all these things because it’s truly different. The individual water molecules in Penta are arranged into small, stable clusters that more effectively get into your cells. That’s how Penta water is able to hydrate your cells more effectively and help you feel great!"

After vewing the article, is there any mention as to who the "world-renowned scientists" are? Why is it important to clearly state the source?

Can you get access to the so called studies completed?

Were they peer reviewed studies?

What is peer review and why is this important?

The article claims that the molecules of Penta water are arranged in smaller, stable clusters than normal water tha get into your cells more effectvely and hydrates your body more effectvely.

How are water molecules held together in the liquid state?

What s hydrogen bonding? Why is it that this force can not help keep water molecules permanently in small unique cluster?

How is water absorbed into cells?


The Penta Water article at the end gives some sources for its claims.

In an article published in the February 2003 issue of the Physics of Vibrations scientific journal, the findings of a study comparing Penta water to distilled, tap, and filtered water revealed that Penta water is made up of smaller clusters and an overall more homogenous cluster structure than other water. This study, titled Study of cluster molecular structures in various types of liquid water by using spontaneous Raman Spectroscopy, has been published in the peer-reviewed Physics of Vibration scientific journal, Volume 10 Number 2, 2002.

A study conducted at the University of California San Diego demonstrated Penta was absorbed 14.3 percent faster than unprocessed water. The study compared the rate of water influx of Penta into a cell to that of the rate of the influx of other water.

In September 2002, scientists at the Moscow University conducted a study to compare the effects of Penta on intracellular alkalinity/acidity. Cells were cultured in the Penta solution and then compared with cells cultured in double distilled solution. After four hours the cells cultured in the Penta solution experienced a decrease in acidity of almost three times that of the cells in the double distilled solution.

In addition to the Intracellular pH study, 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. 

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, as measure for power, endurance and speed after drinking Penta water for three days. Eight competitive triathletes and/or cyclists were tested and the results, if translated to actual competition, would reflect substantial improvement (up to 15% decrease in overall time) for each athlete after consumption of Penta water.


Below is Ben Coldacre's response to the Penta Water claims in its advertising campaign.

Promoting the public misunderstanding of science this week we have Waitrose Food Illustrated, talking about Penta bottled water: “It’s ‘ultra-purified, restructured micro-water’ that offers ‘optimal cellular hydration’.” Sounds expensive. I wonder how it works. “By disrupting the naturally occurring molecule clusters in water with high-energy sound waves, they are able to pass more easily through the body’s cell membranes, quenching the thirst better.” Apparently it offers significant health benefits.
So I try to find out how and whether it works. Just watch as I waste a whole morning. First I go to Penta’s website. It’s dripping with scientific terminology and links to research, which end at best with a couple of very tenuous papers published in obscure Russian journals. Here’s a sample. “There are many types of bioactive molecular structures, including clustered water that scientists are continually researching, for instance at Cambridge.” Follow the link and you find a serious page about physics from a scientist and the disclaimer: “LINKS FROM ANY COMMERCIAL ORGANISATIONS TO THIS SITE ARE ENTIRELY UNAUTHORISED AND UNWELCOME. THE MAINTAINERS OF THIS SITE HAVE NO CONNECTIONS WITH ANY SUCH COMPANIES OR THEIR PRODUCTS.” I phone him. He roars with laughter, but isn’t in the mood to be quoted on something that has nothing to do with him. And rightly so. I get on to Penta. Got any peer-reviewed data, I ask? Apparently not yet. All the stuff on performance isn’t out yet, they’re keeping their heads down while they do the research. While they’ve been keeping their heads down, the Penta website quotes Metro as saying “hydrates at the intercellular level and has many recorded health benefits”, Men’s Health said it is “proven to hydrate more quickly” and the Daily Mirror said it will “increase the body’s cell survival by over 200%,” meaning I will die sometime after the year 2200. “The claims aren’t as far-fetched as they sound,” says the Evening Standard. I can’t wait to see the coverage they get when they go public with this.

But they do have a published paper, I’m told, on liposomes in vitro with aquaporins in an artificial membrane, “or something”, that shows the water is absorbed faster. They’ll email me the reference. Instead I get a call from the MD, who gets very upset that I am trying to catch her out on the science and asks that I don’t quote her. So I didn’t even get a confirmation that the paper exists. The morning is over, and confusion reigns supreme.

What is the main point of Goldacre's argument and the importance of proper scientific analysis?

What does this show about our vulnerability to pseudo science and the lack of proper verification in peer reviewed articles?

What is a double blind experiment? What does a double blind experiment attempt to do?

What is the placebo effect? How can a double blind experiment eliminate this?