Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Penta™ Water (sometimes called AquaRx™ Water) is a commercially sold brand of bottled water that is claimed by its manufacturer to be structurally different to 'normal' water. It is advertised as the 'ultimate bottled water' on the official Penta Water website . It is manufactured and distributed by sister companies Bio Hydration Research Lab and AquaPhotonics. Its name derives from the association with five-molecule clusters of water molecules that are claimed by the manufacturers to be an important component of bulk liquid water and which can affect the health properties of the water. In particular, Bio Hydration Research Labs states that their 'Penta process' of subjecting liquid water to high energy sound waves reduces the average size of the water clusters present in liquid water. This is claimed to make it easier for water molecules to pass through cell-membranes. It is further claimed that water so treated improves the 'survivability' of cells- presumably a beneficial effect for humans. In 2003, Penta became the best selling bottled water in health food stores in America . This article will in part discuss the controversy caused by Penta's claims, which has caused Penta to be the subject of some negative criticism in the press and on the internet.
List of claims made by Penta
This is a list of specific claims for Penta found on websites maintained and owned by Penta/Bio Hydration Research Labs/Aquaphotonics. Important this page is not endorsing the claims listed here, some of which are concerned with serious medical conditions.
- Penta Water contains water clusters of fewer molecules than normal water. 
- Penta Water has a 30% reduction in cluster size 
- Penta Water enters cells 14% faster than normal water 
- Cells cultured in Penta Water survive 266% longer than in normal water 
- Cells cultured in Penta Water have a decrease in acidity 3 times compared to cells cultured in distilled water. 
- Athletic performance measurably improves after consumption of Penta Water 
- Penta Water has a higher boiling point than normal water and this is not due to dissolved impurities. 
- Penta is easier to drink than normal water 
- Penta aids in weight loss. ,
- Penta is the purest bottled water on the market. *
- Penta helps reduce the risk of kidney stones. *
- DNA mutation is 271% greater in distilled water than in Penta Water. *
- Penta is 16.7 X faster water. 
- "..healthier skin, hair, and joints; stronger immune system; faster recovery from surgery or physical activity; and reduced hypertension and cholesterol." Bill Holloway, Penta CEO 
- Increased energy and mental alertness 
- Helps houseplants grow. 
- Penta has helped clear up skin problems. 
- Protein crystals grown in Penta have a different structure. 
- Featured testimonial on Penta website claims Penta can help with fibromyalgia, lupus, arthritis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, 
- Featured testimonial on Penta website claims Penta can help with diabetes.
- Penta acts like an energy drink 
- It has helped with fighting cancer.  (click on 'why haven't I heard of it?')
- Adding Penta to Pap smear test samples increases the accuracy of cervical cancer screenings. 
- Scavenges free radicals .
(* claims appear to have been removed from website in March 2005)
Reliability of claims
The Penta Water website claims  that a paper has appeared in a peer-reviewed journal validating one of their claims that Penta Water contains smaller clusters (30% smaller) compared to 'normal' bulk liquid water: Study of cluster molecular structures in various types of liquid water by using spontaneous Raman Spectroscopy, A.F.Bunkin, A.A.Nyrmatov, and S.M.Pershin, Physics of Vibrations, Volume 10 Number 2, 2002. Physics of Vibrations changed its name to Physics of Wave phenomena in 2003 and is a Russian physics journal that does not appear to be a widely-cited or widely-read (though many specialist publications have comparatively small readerships).
The above-mentioned paper appears only to be concerned with differences in the Raman Spectra between Penta water and normal water. There is no discussion of the supposed health benefits of Penta. Indeed, at the time of writing (March 2005), there are no peer-reviewed papers in the scientific literature showing any health benefits of Penta water.
The claim that smaller water clusters are present in Penta Water appears to mean that there are fewer molecules in each cluster, not that the actual physical size of a particular size molecular cluster is smaller . No explanation has been given for a proposed mechanism that creates these smaller clusters. Apart from the aforementioned interpretation of Raman Spectra results, there is no published evidence showing a reduction in the average number of monomers per cluster. In any case, claims for smaller clusters seem to be irrelevant to Penta's claim for 'better hydration', because as their website explains , water molecules only enter one at a time through aquaporin cell-membrane channels. This point was made by Oxford University professor Robert Williams in a London Times article (London Times, 7th February 2004 article by Mark Henderson) 
- Bob Williams, Emeritus Professor in Oxford University's Inorganic Chemistry department, said: "There is no need to worry about clusters, as the cell channels allow molecules in only one at a time. I would expect this process to have absolutely no effect. There is a danger that people are being duped into buying something that has no value."
There has been no replication of these results or further evidence published in peer-reviewed scientific journals to support the claims of Penta/Bio Hydration Research Labs. Also, there is no known mechanism by which normal liquid water can be 'restructured'. Penta Water appears therefore to be pseudoscience.
If Penta's claims were found to be true, then noted skeptic James Randi has stated  that they would be eligible for the Randi Prize of a million dollars for "anyone who is able to show evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event under test conditions agreed to by both parties". In July 2001, Penta agreed to submit to the Randi Prize, but later withdrew. In April 2005, Mark Fairhead, director of Penta UK wrote that they were considering reapplying
- "Who knows, perhaps we're edging closer to taking James' challenge up!" 
In addition to the Randi Prize, published evidence in peer reviewed mainstream scientific journals would make it likely that Penta would win the Nobel Prize for being able to demonstrate the restructuring of water and its improved health benefits.
Penta Water and mainstream science
It is important to note that the study of water clusters is real science. There is much spectroscopic evidence to show beyond the doubt of most physical chemists that water clusters exist under appropriate (gas-phase) conditions (see for example ,). Furthermore, there are many scientific papers published in major peer-reviewed journals, hypothesizing that bulk-liquid water can be thought of as conglomerates of macroscopic numbers of 'flickering' water clusters. However, mainstream scientists consider any claims of 'restructuring' on time-scales greater than tiny fractions of a second to be either fraudulent or mistaken.
On the Penta Water links page  was included a link to a Cambridge University science group under the heading of "partnerships". In fact, this is false (either by error or fabrication), and the Cambridge science group has no association with Penta . There was also a similar link to Johns Hopkins University. Again, there appears no evidence of a partnership between Penta and Johns Hopkins. (Note, as of March 23rd 2005 these links have been removed from their website, though it is still possible to view an archived copy of the links page.)
Penta has provided £15000 in research funding to the British Brunel University in 2003 for a research study The ergogenic effects of Penta Water . Dr. Andy Sparks and Prof. DonMacLaren from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences in Liverpool John Moores University have also carried out research for Penta. (Their paper, Simulated soccer study is available from the AquaPhotonics website. )
Response of Penta to criticism
- "Goldmember I do hope you are a better physician than you are a journalist when we publish you will of course be informed out of the decency/courtesy you didn't show to us! Sleep well tonight and think about how and why you tried to fuck us over and practice keeping one eye open."
An apology, on behalf of Penta, from publicist Max Clifford followed. Goldacre contacted the British police in response to the threat.
- "You live on other peoples money while claming [sic] to fight injustice. Injustice is to make libelous charges without any investigation on your part. Our product is real do your own testing before you shoot off your big mouth. Why don't you get a real job and contribute to society instead of leaching [sic] off of others. Please do not bother me anymore."
The official British Penta website  also has a page devoted to critical articles in the press in which they nominate newspapers and other news organizations for their 'Dunce Awards' . On this page, they respond to criticism with the following
- "NB - whoever debunks the fact that Penta Water IS different, is merely not up to date with the the latest science. And that's not surprising - few people read every scientific journal and many people fall back on their existing knowledge about science rather than consider the possibility that just because they don't know about it, doesn't necesssarily mean it's 'rubbish'"
On this page Penta also states
- "We DO create water with smaller average cluster sizes, and in 2004, we will have new studies proving the benefits drinking Penta has on the human body. These are happening right now, in prestigious UK universities - re-visit this site regularly to read the latest updates."
At the time of writing (2005) these studies have not been published in peer reviewed journals, though the British Penta website did post quotes from researchers in two British sports research groups indicating that the studies were successful at demonstrating a performance improvement for athletes using Penta . Details of these studies were scheduled to appear at the end of February 2005, but as of March have yet to appear.
British Advertising Standards Authority 2005 adjudication on Penta Water
- "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. The Authority concluded that the information submitted was not sufficient to prove Penta water had health benefits over and above those of ordinary water or was structured differently from ordinary water."
As a result of these findings, the ASA ruled that
- "The Authority told the advertisers not to repeat claims that implied the product was chemically unique, had been restructured or molecularly redesigned, or hydrated cells and improved physical performance better than tap water."
The ASA is a regulatory authority set up as an independent body by the British advertising industry. It does not have any statutory power, but it is usually able to enforce correct observance of advertising codes in Britain.
Criticisms of specific claims made by Penta
The boiling point of Penta Water
It is often mentioned that Penta has a higher boiling point than liquid water. This claim appears to be based on a research report paid for by Penta on Measurements of the Boiling Temperature of Penta ® Water . In the study, which was not double blinded the researchers found a 0.043 °C increase in the boiling temperature of the Penta Water samples (relative to deionized water) and write
- "The two waters are thus not identical in their boiling point. It is not possible from this single experiment to understand just why this is. One possibility that still needs to be examined is that the increase in boiling point of the Penta ® water (relative to that of the Type I reagent grade water) is simply due to the presence of dissolved impurities."
In this study, neither water was found to have exactly the expected boiling point of 100 °C, which the researchers attributed to a probable error in the calibration of the thermometer. Thus, the experiment was only able to measure the relative boiling points of the two waters.
The boiling-temperature of Penta water was further discussed in an article in The Guardian Bad Science column . Further criticisms of the experiment were that the themometer resolution was very likely not accurate to resolve the claimed 0.043 °C temperature difference and also the possibility of heat flow occurring between the water samples and their surroundings.
Note that similar claims of a raised boiling point have also been made for the now discredited polywater, which was investigated in the 1960s and was also proposed to be a new structure of water. In the case of polywater, the elevated boiling point was eventually shown to be a result of dissolved impurities.
Structural properties of Penta Water
The overwhelming consensus in mainstream science (arrived at through numerous experiments and accumulated knowledge) is that water does not have a structural memory of the sort claimed by Penta or in homeopathy. Even if smaller than average clusters are being formed by sound waves in the so-called Penta-process, these structures would almost instantly disappear once the waves are stopped. For instance, see the discussion by Randi .
It is worth noting that the picture of five water molecules on every Penta Water bottle label does not represent a low-energy structure of the water pentamer since none of the waters are forming hydrogen bonds. If molecules were placed in this geometry they would quickly repel each-other (whilst quickly reorienting) due to the mutual electrostatic repulsion of the negatively charged oxygens. However this structure might occur around a positively charged ion such as Na+. The accepted  lowest energy global minimum structure for five water molecules is shown in the accompanying figure. Note that this structure contains five hydrogen bonds (dashed red lines), whilst the Penta water structure contains no hydrogen bonds.
Hydration properties of Penta Water
It is difficult to determine whether Penta is consistently claiming that their product offers improved hydration.
On the official Penta website is found the section heading Proven More Effective Hydration . This is apparently contradicted by some text which is part of the section
- "Please note that having smaller molecular clusters is scientific proof of our restructured water, and may NOT contribute to faster hydration.
- "Cells have two ways of hydrating. First, cells become hydrated when water molecules pass through a tiny channel called aquaporin protein channels. These channels only allow one molecule to pass at a time, therefore, as far as we know, the cluster size doesn’t have any direct correlation to improved hydration."
Confusingly, the British Penta website contains the following 
- "High energy sound waves are used to restructure the molecules in Penta water into small, stable clusters. These small clusters are able to more effectively enter your cells."
Published peer-reviewed papers quoted by Penta
Study of cluster molecular structures in various types of liquid waters using spontaneous raman spectroscopy
This subsection concerns the (published and peer-reviewed) paper.
- Study of Cluster Molecular Structures in Various Types of Liquid Waters Using Spontaneous Raman Spectroscopy, A. F. Bunkin, A. A. Nyrmatov and S. M. Pershin, Physics of Vibrations, Volume 10 Number 2, 2002
In this paper the authors examine a peak in the Raman spectrum at a wavelength around 650 nm for various liquid water samples. The samples include several types of distilled water and Penta Water. The authors claim that the relative position and width of the peak for Penta compared to other waters is evidence for Penta being a new structure of water.
Graphs of the results can be found at a Bio Hydration Research Labs website . From these, it is seen that the difference between the two distilled water samples Distilled 1 and Distilled 2 is similar in size to the difference between either and the Penta sample. The authors do not provide an explanation as to why only the Penta to Distilled 1 /Distilled 2 difference is evidence for a new structure of water, whilst the difference between the distilled waters is presumably due to impurities.
The authors also find that the effective cluster temperature of the Penta water samples are 12 °C higher than the control samples. In other words, they observe that the Penta water samples behave similarly to normal water that is heated by an extra 12 degrees. This appears to be inconsistent with the claimed higher boiling point of Penta Water.
These were not double blind measurements. The Penta water samples were provided by Bio Hydration Research Labs.
This paper is available from the AquaPhotonics website. 
Atomic Force Microscopy of calcium oxalate monohydrate crystals in Penta Water
This subsection concerns the (published and peer-reviewed) paper
- Atomic force microscopy of growth and dissolution of calcium oxalate monohydrate(COM) crystals, N.V. Gvozdev, E.V. Petrova, T.G. Chernevich, O.A. Shustin, L.N. Rashkovich, Journal of Crystal Growth 261 (2004) 539–548
In this paper, the authors find that calcium oxalate crystals (which can form kidney stones) dissolve 3X faster in samples of Penta compared to the rate in distilled water. The rate in Penta water is found to be 0.47 nanometers per second, which is roughly 0.04 mm per day. It would take approximately 4 months at this rate to dissolve a 10mm stone.
These were not double blind measurements.
Organizations associated with Penta
- Bio Hydration Research Labs manufactures Penta water. They are located in San Diego California. The CEO is Bill Holloway. G. R. Holloway, wife of Bill Holloway is the President and co-founder. Their son, Michael Holloway is also a co-founder and sits on the board of directors. Others on the board include Dr Nikolai I. Tankovich and David Cheatham. 
- AquaPhotonics is a biotechnology company in Carlsbad California that makes extensive use of Penta in their products and appears to be a sister company to Bio Hydration Research Labs. Dr Nikolai I. Tankovich is the CEO and David Cheatham is the president. Bill Holloway and G. R. Holloway sit on the board of directors.
Positive reviews of Penta Water
Penta Water has received much positive publicity in the press and has received positive reviews from health-oriented websites (e.g. ). There are also numerous testimonials from the public and endorsements from celebrities (e.g. Sting and Farrah Fawcett ) who have stated  that they have enjoyed or benefitted from drinking Penta Water (though there is no independent verification of these endorsements).
Testimonials such as the above are known by scientists as anecdotal evidence. Mainstream science generally places little weight on anecdotal evidence because it is known that people can be (unintentionally) unreliable witnesses of subtle phenomena, such as health improvements after taking a proposed cure. Furthermore, Penta's stated promotional system ("Initially a trial sample of Penta will be sent to select teams or sports people. Following a successful trial a special rate is offered") could be interpreted as targeting athletes who are already successful or improving.
- "Having looked at Penta from a sceptical point of view, our studies show that Penta has an effective hydration effect compared to bottled mineral water."
Official Penta sites
- Official Penta Water website
- Official British Penta Water website
- Official Bio Hydration Research Lab website
- Official AquaPhotonics website
Sites critical of Penta Water
- James Randi discussion of clustered water
- James Randi discussion of Penta Water (part 1)
- James Randi discussion of Penta Water (part 2)
- James Randi: Penta may reapply for the Randi Prize
- Guardian article critical of Penta Water
- Another Guardian article critical of Penta Water
- Guardian article discussing Advertising Standards Authority adjudication on Penta water
- Guardian article discussing problems with boiling point of Penta experiment
- Times of London article critical of Penta and other bottled waters
- Page discussing water cluster pseudoscience
- Page discussing 'Penta Water Pseudoscience'
- British Advertising Standards Authority adjudication upholding complaint against Penta's advertising
Sites favorable to Penta Water
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