Steam. Water. Ice.
That’s it, right? The three classic phases of water are almost as familiar as water itself. H20 is the first chemical formula most of us learn — and oftentimes the only one that many of us remember. So is it conceivable that the substance we know so well has secrets not only hiding in plain sight, but also hiding inside every cell in our body?
Dr. Gerald Pollack thinks so. For decades, he has been working to roll back the tide of what he considers disinterest and dogma stigmatizing the study of water. His opponents, he says, are those who think that we already know everything worth knowing about water.
Pollack’s research — following up and expanding upon the work of others like Gilbert Ling — has been trying to define the properties of water on the molecular borderlands where it rubs up against hydrophilic surfaces. At such points of contact with “water friendly” surfaces, water molecules often shed their hydrogen ions and organize into orderly latices or “sheets” of molecules that can grow dozens, hundreds, and possibly millions of sheets thick. (The exact thickness depends on the substance the water is touching, as well as temperature and pressure.)
These “Exclusion Zones” of orderly OH- molecules can “push” impurities out of their negatively-charged region, into the hydrogen-enriched water further from the surface. Behavior like this might be responsible for many of water’s anomalous properties, including surface tension, capillary action, and the little-known fact that water’s density is greatest just above freezing — when it then turns course and loses density as ice crystals start to form.
Does “Structured Water” even need an asterisk?
If hydrophilic surfaces can cause “regular” water to phase-shift into a “fourth phase” of water (alternately called Structured Water, EZ water, and more) it stands to reason that the cells of living things contain a lot of the stuff. By volume, our bodies are about two-thirds water, varying by age and body type. But by molecular count, water holds a super-majority: well over 99% of our bodies’ molecules are water. (With only three atoms each, water molecules are very, very small.) The many hydrophilic compounds existing in our cells would, based on Dr. Pollack’s research, mean that fourth-phase water is not the exception inside living cells, but the rule.
Unfortunately, “structured water” seems to be biologically relevant, “all natural,” understudied, and poses no legal barriers-to-entry for people who might want to market products based on wishful thinking. Dr. Pollack’s website contains the boldfaced disclaimer “Multiple companies producing water-based products use my picture to imply that we endorse their products…we have no formal association with any company.” It’s a testament to the proliferation of structured water products that have emerged to fill the vacuum of public interest before a scientific consensus has emerged on what structured water truly means to biology.
The glass half-full.
The history of the study of water over the past three-quarters-century is a fascinating one — and somewhat tragic, the way Dr. Pollack tells it. Could it really be that our most plentiful molecule has been ignored as a near-inert substance for decades?
What might we gain in useful knowledge if we researched all the promising hints that water sprinkles for us to find?
Episode #187 presents a turbulent mystery told by a scientific maverick, hinting that our glass of knowledge is (at most) only half-full.