The truth about oxygen

July 17th, 2003 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, ions, mail, oxygen | 6 Comments »

The truth about oxygen

Ben Goldacre
Thursday July 17, 2003
The Guardian

Talk bad science

· There’s nothing more amusing than a battle for truth between competing schools of New Age bunkum. See how the Daily Mail gushed over the Elanra ioniser from Equilibra. It is, apparently, “the first ioniser that creates negative ions small enough to be inhaled”. So, smaller than your mouth then. Apparently it could be “a huge breakthrough in treating a range of illnesses from asthma and depression to migraine, insomnia and sinusitis”. Not content with its share of the gullible punter market, Equilibra undermines its competitors, claiming on its website to have invented “the world’s only patented technology for reproducing ions of oxygen that are small enough to be ingested”. And that: “Other ion generators can claim to produce negative ions, but they are NOT small or ingestible, and cannot enter your body.” Helpfully Equilibra provides a table of the other ionisers on the market. Snortingly we laugh with it at the large negative oxygen ions of its competitors.

· I looked up the claims on Medline, home of all medical papers. But I found no mention of “small negative ions”, nor does Equilibra give any real explanation, though a nice diagram explains they move at 1.9 cm2/Vs in a 1 V/cm electrical field. “Research conducted at La Trobe University in Australia demonstrated that these ions cause an increase in the body’s production of immunoglobulin A, implicated in enhancing the human immune system,” says Equilibra. I couldn’t find this on Medline or La Trobe’s site either. Bear in mind an Elanra costs £400. Equilibra’s other products include what seem to be laminated playing cards with nice patterns on, or Universal Harmonisers should I say, which for £40 will increase the levels of biophotons in your water. Special photographs with wavy lines on show how they can protect you from the radiowaves generated by your mobile phone. The Daily Mail didn’t cover those, though “all our energy products have been scientifically tested and proven to increase the biophoton levels in water which when consumed enhances the ATP response in the body and therefore they work very effectively”. Biophoton is an obscure phrase for the light emitted by living cells. God knows how they get into water.

· I was surprised not to find a disclaimer on the site, though Equilibra does suggest: “If you do not wish to work through your fears and energy blockages, and clear and balance your energy fields, do not order the energy products for use upon the body.”


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6 Responses



  1. simon said,

    September 26, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Maybe putting ionised phosphorescent fish in a mirrored bowl contained in a strong electro-magnetic field would increase the level of biophotons in the water? What is it these biophotons are supposed to do? Sounds scientific enough for me though, I think I’ll buy 2.

  2. Richard said,

    December 1, 2005 at 11:32 pm

    Not sure about splashing out 40 quid, how much do photophorescent fish cost? And what are they like with chips?

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  5. blablabla said,

    October 1, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    These seem like reputable scientific sources for supporting an active mechanism.

    New scientist, 2003
    www.newscientist.com/article/dn3228
    – Stephen Dean, a consultant at the St James’s Hospital in Leeds where the trial took place says: “The results have been fantastic – so much so that we have asked the university to leave the ionisers with us.”

    Compliance Engineering, 2002
    www.ce-mag.com/archive/02/11/mrstatic.html
    – My role in the pilot project, and maybe in the (hopefully upcoming) clinical test, has merely been that of a physics consultant and observer—an observer who has gradually lost his belief that ions have no effect on human beings.

    American Journal of Psychiatry, 2006
    ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/163/12/2126
    – Naturalistic dawn simulation and high-density ionization are active antidepressants that do not require the effort of postawakening bright light therapy. They can be considered candidate alternatives to bright light or medication.

  6. marmalade said,

    March 28, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    I have checked this out and the manufacturers Elanra and Bionic Products Pty Ltd are an Australian company and Equilibra are some downmarket distributor in the UK, they are not the ioniser manufacturers. Not the same people.
    Bad journalism & lots of self righteousness as usual. Not that anyone in the Guardian would notice though.

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