Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Quackery Science Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: Oxygen + electricity + water = woo


In looking back at all the various bizarre incarnations of woo that I’ve covered during the last year or so since I started doing Your Friday Dose of Woo, I was wondering if there was a form of woo that I had not covered yet. Woo seems to come in several forms, such as energy woo, water woo, pH woo, “detoxification” woo, religious woo, and psychic woo, among others, with certain themes that just keep recurring over and over. I’m sure there’s enough material there for a Ph.D. thesis on the classification of woo, if some intrepid graduate student were interested. For this week, I was looking for something different. I even thought I had found it.

But, then, as always, the same themes started to recur. Even so, this woo was different enough from the woo that I’ve covered before to intrigue me, because it starts with what is basically a valid physiologic observation and then rides it all the way into Woo-ville.

Meet the AIRNERGY+ system:

The AIRNERGY+ method was discovered 10 years ago by the researcher Jörg Klemm and is today covered by international patent protection rights. He constantly developed the therapy in co-operation with a team of scientists.

Of course he did. Some of the best woo is developed in co-operation with scientists–pseudoscientists, that is. Of course, as always, I’m majorly impressed that he got a patent for his device. That means it must be legitimate, right? Wrong.

It starts out not too bad, as a lot of woo does:

Utilisation of oxygen is the basic condition for all regenerative processes…

During a 24 hour period, a person breathes at least 350 litres of oxygen when at rest: a continuous process of breathing it in from the air and transporting it from the alveolus through to the mitochondria, the power plants of the cells. This is the basis for healthy cell function and regeneration as we know them.

Actually, oxygen utilization is the basic condition for life itself in aerobic organisms like mammals, not just regenerative processes. So what’s the problem? This, supposedly:

However if the body only utilises 1/4 of the total volume of oxygen breathed in and the rest is breathed out unused ….

The air contains 21% oxygen of which 3/4 is breathed out unused. 1/4 is reabsorbed by the blood. It is known that the cells of older and sick people cannot utilise the oxygen provided by the blood optimally. In addition,the heart utilises more oxygen than all other organs, based on an identical oxygen quantity.

As a result of these facts, we determined that the concentration of oxygen is not singularly decisive for the regeneration of cells but rather the cells’ capacity to utilise the oxygen available.

Another AIRNERGY+ site states the problem in a different way:

Our body needs the oxygen in the air that we absorb by breathing. This oxygen is “burned” in the body’s cells. This generates the energy that we need to live.

But our organism is not able to utilise all of this oxygen. We exhale 3/4 of the oxygen again without utilising it.

To give the body more energy there is no sense in breathing in more oxygen, which we cannot utilise anyway.

So what? I thought. If you’re healthy, you “utilize” all the oxygen that you need; this is bullshit, pure and simple. The lungs can extract more oxygen in times when the oxygen tension in the blood is low, as under conditions of heavy aerobic exercise. Insufficient oxygen in the air usually is only a problem at higher altitudes, where air pressure is low. At sea level, it’s generally not a problem. In fact, having too high an oxygen concentration over too long a period of time is toxic. Patients on ventilators breathing more than 50% oxygen for extended periods of time are at risk for pulmonary damage from reactive oxygen species. So, as is common for woo, we have a “solution” for a nonexistent problem. Naturally, as all good woo does, it’s presented with an analogy:

Here is a simple technical comparison: A badly installed combustion engine has a high level of harmful emissions, reduced performance and a shorter life expectancy. Simply increasing the amount of fuel will not solve these problems. Only by improving combustion efficiency will performance improve, harmful substances be reduced and a long life be guaranteed.

But how does the AIRNERGY+ unit supposedly accomplish this? Jorg Klemm, its inventor, is more than happy to explain it to you:

  • AIRNERGY+ energytherapy uses atmospheric air as a medium for therapy according to a process of making oxygen reactive “copied” from nature. After the oxygen has returned to its normal state, the the energy generated and transported by the water molecules in the atmospheric moisture takes effect.
  • AIRNERGY+ oxygen optimises the oxygen utilisation within the cells and thus promotes the creation of antioxidative enzymes which reduce the production of free radicals …

… Reasons why AIRNERGY+ is effective in the case of practically all illnesses, including carcinogenic; no presumption but rather an interconnection resulting from the significance of the oxygen utilisation … Quasi: it lies in the nature of things.

And, yet another analogy:

This enables a patent-protected process to take place which is technologically adapted from the natural processes of photosynthesis.

At this point, it’s beyond me to resist the temptation to point out that humans are not plants and do not require photosynthesis to survive. So why does Klemm think that a process adapted from photosynthesis would have any beneficial effect on humans?

Also, when this woo-meister says “practically all” illnesses, he really means it. The claim is made that the AIRNERGY+ system can cure: Heart and vascular illnesses, circulation disorders, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, rheumatic disorders, chronic fibromyalgia, diabetes mellitus l & ll, bronchitis, pulmonary diseases, liver diseases, acute and chronic pain, multiple Chemical Syndrome (MCS), skin diseases, vision disorders, sleep disorders, allergies, diseases of old age (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease), tinnitus.

Wow! That’s some mighty potent woo! Better yet, there are no side effects! Just ask Klemm. He says so! And, entrepreneurial woo-meister that he is, he even provides multiple versions of the AIRNERGY+ system: Basic (for beginners), Professional (with three activation units, whatever an activation unit is), and–of course!–Professional Plus (for intensive use in clinics and surgeries).

But what does it mean when he says the AIRNERGY+ “uses atmospheric air as a medium for therapy according to a process of making oxygen reactive ‘copied’ from nature”? And how does the AIRNERGY+-treated oxygen “optimise the oxygen utilisation within the cells and thus promote the creation of antioxidative enzymes which reduce the production of free radicals”? In search of that answer, I looked up the patents under Klemm’s name. I found one, entitled Method and device for producing singlet oxygen:

The invention relates to a device for producing singlet oxygen, comprising a housing forming a chamber which has at least two opposite surfaces. One of said surfaces is transparent and the other is covered by a coating made from a dye excitable by light, and a light source for irradiating the surface covered with the dye. The surface covered with the dye is formed by a substrate comprising a finely roughened surface. The dye is introduced into the indentations of the finely roughened surface by polishing. The light source can be formed by light emitting diodes, whose light emission comprises a wavelength located within the range of maximum radiation absorption of the dye of the coated surface.

Odd. I don’t see any claims that this device can make oxygen “copied” from nature as a means of promoting health and healing anywhere in the patent application. I wonder why. So I looked at more of the patent application to see its claims. Nope, not a single health claim. Indeed, the only claims there are that it can make singlet oxygen and methods to implant the dye on one of the surfaces with an electromagnetic field. In fact, the main purpose of the device seems to be to make singlet oxygen with “high efficiency and low expense.”

Could it be that this is just a device to make singlet oxygen for people and then to bubble it through water to humidify it? Why yes! Just look at this video for AIRNERGY+ on this page. Why on earth would he think that’s a good idea? What is singlet oxygen anyway? Actually, it’s a form of reactive oxygen species that reacts with a lot of different types of organic molecules to oxidize them, including lefins, dienes, sulphides, aromatics, hetero-aromatics, terpenes, steroids, fatty acids, flavones, tetracyclines, vitamines, amino acids, proteins, nucleic acids, blood and bile pigments–you name it. They’re particularly involved in in the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and oxidized LDL cholesterol is involved in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis.

So, yes, the AIRNERGY+ device does produce “energized” oxygen, but it’s not the kind of “energization” you want applied to the oxygen you breathe in–unless you want the singlet oxygen reacting with your proteins and lipids in an unfavorable way, not unlike the process by which oxygen free radicals cause damage. I’m guessing from this that at least one claim is probably true: That it “promotes the creation of antioxidative enzymes.” Too bad it’s by introducing reactive oxygen species into its users lungs that need antioxidizing.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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