Respectful Insolence

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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.

Comments

  1. #1 Old Ari
    September 28, 2007

    If I remember right, there is a specific enzyme in blood to destroy singlet oxygen.

  2. #2 Owen
    September 28, 2007

    “…a chamber which has at least two opposite surfaces” – not going for topological woo as well? I’m disappointed… What about the 4-D quantum oxygen activation in a Klein bottle? Or is that just for DNA?

  3. #3 John C. Welch
    September 28, 2007

    “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? ”

    Dude…that’s a *bong*.

  4. #4 viggen
    September 28, 2007

    This device doesn’t seem like a highly efficient way to do anything. It looks like an efficient way to shine a dim light on an immobilized dye (common dye, I might add, used as pH indicators and food colorings). If it does produce oxide radicals, I expect that the radical reactions with the dyes probably destroys both the dyes and the oxides before anything gaseous leaves the chamber… except perhaps for hot air.

  5. #5 Calli Arcale
    September 28, 2007

    Mr Welch — that’s the best comment this woo could have, I think!

    The English major in me just had to cringe reading that woo. Some of that stuff doesn’t even diagram properly. I sure hope he didn’t pay a lot of money for that excreble copy. I was also intrigued to read that Klemm developed the device “constantly”. Perhaps if he’d had a girlfriend, this device would never have been born. :-P

    And why is it that so much woo starts out with what amounts to a data rights statement? Are they afraid their potential customers might try to steal their intellectual property and then claim that no copyright was asserted? There must be a serious problem with IP theft in the “CAM” world.

    Nah, they’re just counting on people being dumb enough to mistake an assertion of data rights for something actually meaningful beyond copyright law.

  6. #6 Rjaye
    September 28, 2007

    ****Posted by John C. Welch: “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? ”

    Dude…that’s a *bong*.****

    Must have been what Mr. Klemm was using when he was struck by his unique…inspiration…for the AIRNergy system.

    You know, how all “great” ideas are formed. XD

  7. #7 arcticwolfw
    September 29, 2007

    On the german webpage of Airnergy you get even more interesting information:
    the singlet oxygen, generated in the machine converts, still within the machine, right back to the normal triplet form, while transferring the released energy to water molecules in he respiratory air. This is why the air is humidified. … Water molecules are therefore of central importance for the Airnergy principle. (bold in german original).

    What then happens within the body?
    … Many lines of evidence indicate that energy rich water molecules transport their energy/information to places, where ‘oxygen activity’ takes place.
    (original text at: http://www.airnergy-medical.de/fakten-zu-airnergy/wie-airnergy-wirkt.html

    No further comment

  8. #8 Ken Mareld
    September 29, 2007

    Would you like some oxygenated water to go with your baked Halibut?

  9. #9 MountainKing
    September 29, 2007

    According to a german webpage dealing with dubious companies
    the Airnergy AG had to file for insolvency after they lost a lawsuit against the “Deutsche Sporthochschule” in Cologne. The company asked the university for a study intended to prove the efficiency of the airnergy-technology. Well, the outcome wasnt quite as the company expected and more in line of what you wrote here. :) A TV-station reported about that and Airnergy “explained” the fact that no positive effect were measured by alleged flaws in the design and refused to pay for the study so they got sued and lost.
    You can look it all up on the (german) page, searchng for “Airnergy”:

    http://www.boocompany.com/index.cfm?content=stories&searchText=airnergy

  10. #10 Acad Ronin
    September 29, 2007

    I assume you have already covered Pyramid woo, magnetic woo, and Lost Secrets of Atlantis woo (I am sure there is some out there).

  11. #11 Chris Noble
    September 30, 2007

    I’d like to see these guys debate the Perth Group nutjobs with their “oxidative stress” theory of AIDS.

    According to my rough calculations the two opposing forms of woo, if brought into close proximity, should cause mutual annihilation and release enough energy to solve the energy crisis.

  12. #12 Sophist, FCD
    September 30, 2007

    This device doesn’t seem like a highly efficient way to do anything.

    Save separating the credulous from their money, that is.

  13. #13 pkiwi
    September 30, 2007

    Now this is weird but true. I come in to my office this morning – and the Airnergy machine that normally sits in the lobby has disappeared! Could it be the wind of mighty Orac scepticism has reached down here to Wellington! All hail mighty Orac.

    To explain, my office is above some homeopaths (nice friendly herby witchy types) who promote Airnergy and use some space on my floor to give the ‘treatment’. (I am so proud that some woo I sent to Orac has come to his attention!). Last Thursday there was someone sitting by the lift, tubes up their nose (this looks funny), having some nice humid air doing only what humid air can do. And this morning it is gone. Oh hail mighty Orac again I say!

    Of course now if it reappears I will reprint the entire thread above and place it carefully in the pile of magazines next to the machine.

    Actually if you think the written material is funny you should hear someone actually describe it (eavesdropping is not my normal hobby but I just couldn’t help it). First, there was the description of the formation of singlet oxygen: “See this machine splits apart the oxygen and then it puts it back together. So it has this extra energy from having been split”. I was dying to call out “2nd law of thermodynamics!”. But the there was some further dialogue:
    [Patient]: And does it use some special fluid?
    [Homeopath, a bit flustered after all the technical stuff] No, no, just normal tap water. I just fill it up from the tap.
    [Patient] And this blue light?
    [Homeopath]: I’m not sure what the blue light does….

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