Friday, June 14, 2013

ASAE: The wonder of water?

Water, water, everywhere, what type should I drink? 

I was passed along an e-mail this morning about this new and revolutionary product called ASEA (you can check out the mumbo-jumbo here).
They have even produced an inspiring YouTube video meant to evoke some upwelling feeling of accomplishment.
ASEA is a diet supplement described as a “life-changing” health aid that can benefit everyone. "Every human being has three basic needs: to believe, to belong, and to become." Hold the phone. Isn't this supposed to be the next great nutritional supplement? It claims to act by creating 16 new chemical particles formed from salt and water which act as redox signaling molecules in your body.

Redox stands for reduction and oxidation- a process by which you body transfers electrons from one particle to the next, changing it in a way to illicit some sort of signal, be it a release of a hormone, an electrical stimulus generation, or chemical production to call immune cells. It acts as a signalling pathway within the body. As ASEA puts it,
“ASEA is trillions of stable, perfectly balanced Redox Signaling Molecules suspended in a pristine saline solution—the same molecules that exist in the cells of the human body. Redox signaling is a function that is central to all life. Signaling molecules are created within every cell in the body. After the age of 12, our cells make fewer and fewer of these molecules. ASEA is the world’s only source for replenishing them.”

 Now, behind all that is what they are really trying to get at, and what a lot of these products are trying to get at; the concept of reactive oxygen species, or ROS for short. These ROS, as you've probably read in just about every health and nutrition article in any form of media, are what cause cellular damage- aging, cell death, and ultimately- cancer. The damaging inflammatory effects of ROS have long been known to the scientific community- why obese people are unhealthy is because they are in a constant inflamed state due to ROS production- and with the advent of all the anti-oxidant products being marketed today, most people are getting some sense of the types of things ROS can do. 
 And that is what ASEA is ultimately trying to do, be something of the ultimate antioxidant. It allegedly promotes enhanced immune function, supports vital cellular function, provides superior "support" for athletes, boosts efficiency of the body’s own antioxidants by 500%, and protects against free radical damage. Vague claims from a products claiming to be revolutionary and the only source for replenishing these signalling molecules that we lose at the age of twelve (we don't). They can't legally claim to be effective against any disease, but because there lies the association between free radical damage, immune function and illness, they can make these purposefully vague claims about their product so long as they say the claims haven't been evaluated by the FDA and the product shouldn't be used to treat every illness. They instead turn to testimonials about how ASEA has helped everything from curing sleep problems and minor aches and pains right up to curing cancer.

But, perhaps they have something here. Let's take a closer look at what they actually have going on shall we?

Oh, wait, what's this? Their product label just has two ingredients; water and salt. But they explain ,

"ASEA is a mixture of 16 chemically recombined products of salt and water with completely new chemical properties. It is no longer salt or water just like table salt is no longer chlorine gas or sodium metal." 
But what are these mysterious 16 new chemicals? ASEA has been quite coy about what exactly these miracle chemicals are,
"ASEA is made in Utah from municipal water that is highly purified using both reverse osmosis and distillation. The pure water is then combined with pure salt and allowed to cure, before undergoing a patented process that oxidizes and reduces the saline solution into the final product. During processing most of the chloride ions are integrated into redox molecules. Sodium ions are not effected [sic] and help to maintain electrical neutrality. Hydrogen and oxygen also contribute to the formation of redox molecules, but most of the water forms a matrix of clusters around the active redox molecules and ions. This micro-clustering further contributes to the stability and electrical neutrality of the product. The final product is no longer a saline solution. It is not salt and water. It is a balanced buffet of redox molecules. The raw materials have been transformed into a new product. Ingredients: Some people ask why redox Molecules are not listed as an ingredient on each bottle of ASEA. By comparison, when we look at the ingredients on a loaf of bread, we find flour, water, eggs, sugar, oil, yeast, etc. Nowhere on the list does it say “bread”. The raw ingredients have been blended and heated and forever transformed. You can no longer locate the eggs or oil that we know went into the process. It’s the same with ASEA."

It sounds all scientific and they do try to compare it so something more laymen like baking a cake. And yet, this isn't science. The chemistry of what they are trying to describe doesn't exist. The chemical and physical nature of the individual elements (Sodium, Chlorine, Hydrogen, Oxygen) are slaves the the physical properties that dictate the laws of nature. Essentially they have created an expensive saline solution from tap water.

"But wait!" you cry, "surely they must have backed up a product with science!" Surely they must have right? Well, the science that they have done is what you consider poor science. They have claimed that they were able to determine the solution contained an equilibrium of several known compounds stabilized within ASEA. Yet they failed to state the compounds. They then performed a VO2 max (rate of maximal oxygen uptake) test on 17 athletes and found a 3% increase in VO2 max. Yet the data is pretty meaningless as there was no placebo control group. Then a small study of cyclists was done with a crossover control but with no placebo control. It measured a number of changes in metabolites that “may represent effects on inflammation, oxidative stress, and physiologic stress.” But again, this study was no placebo controlled, rendering the data relatively meaningless in any sort of context. What's more is that these studies were done "in-house" by the company and were never published in any scientific peer reviewed journals. Without being peer reviewed and published, there is a lack of credibility to ASEA's claims. Extraordinary claims require ordinary evidence, which they don't have. 

Bottom Line: ASEA is salt water. Who knows, maybe its something you want to try, maybe you want to spend a dollar an ounce for filtered Utah tap water. Maybe time will show that they've created something magnificent. Or maybe you can just find enjoyment reading through their website.

Any thoughts? Let us know in the comments section! We at Runner's Mark  are always trying to keep you informed and up to date on the latest happenings!

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