Penta tonics

March 10th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, references, very basic science, water | 1 Comment »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday March 10, 2005
The Guardian

· The great thing about Bad Science is the column just writes itself. Like when Penta Water wrote in to say “Sleep well tonight and think about how and why you tried to fuck us over and practice [sic] keeping one eye open.” It may have apologised, but the curse of Bad Science has struck again: this time, through the mighty hand of the Advertising Standards Authority.

· Someone – I like to fantasise it was one of you – wrote to the ASA to complain that Penta’s adverts “misleadingly implied the product had health benefits over and above those of ordinary water” and that “the claims ‘restructured’ and ‘it might be just H2O, but it’s no ordinary water’” were misleading. Here are some of the quotes from Penta that worried them: “Easy to drink – Proven faster, better hydration – No sloshing or fullness Penta is ultra-purified, restructured ‘micro-water’. Groundbreaking science – proven by patent. Just H2O in smaller stable clusters.” Nice. “You too can use Penta (1-4 bottles a day) to enjoy what we call “Bio-hydration” optimal cellular hydration that makes your body come alive … Penta is proven to hydrate more efficiently due to its unique structure.” And the proof? “It’s been shown by researchers at the University of Calif. at San Diego that Penta water hydrates cells faster and more effectively than other waters. Researchers at Moscow University demonstrated that Penta improves the environment within your cells …Unique patented structure … proven at the prestigious General Physic Institute.”

· Now check this. The ASA can be even more patronising than me: “They [Penta] submitted research papers that they believed showed scientific evidence of restructuring… The authority took expert advice and understood that the scientific evidence submitted did not prove that Penta had health benefits over and above those of ordinary water, or had been restructured to form stable smaller clusters. It also understood that hydrogen bonds in ordinary water were a weak type of chemical bonding that allowed the formation and reformation of temporary clusters of water molecules in liquid phase water many times per second.”

· So the ASA has told Penta not to repeat claims that imply its product is chemically unique, has been restructured or molecularly redesigned, or improves physical performance better than tap water. I can’t help wanting to ask, only I’m too scared to phone them again: how is Penta going to flog this water now?


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