EXCLUSIVE SCAM INVESTIGATION: Dr Liz Gordon – Healing the poor with Kangen water


A neighbour was going to a demonstration of Kangen water and asked me if I knew about it.  Never heard of it, I replied. So along I went to what was pretty close to a Tupperware party (I last went to one of those before 1980), but selling water not dishes, to see what I could see.

The participants were mainly Māori and Pasifika, also two people with significant illnesses, one bloke who was morbidly obese (250kg, perhaps) and one very sceptical Dr Liz Gordon. My friend had heard good things about the therapeutic qualities of this water.  I did a bit of work on the internet before I went (got right to the point, searching ‘Kangen water scam’) and knew what to watch for.

The Kangen water uses electrolysis to produce ionized alkaline water.  It filters the water, then puts it through electrolysis. Supposedly the resulting product “works to restore your body to a more alkaline state, which is optimal for good health”.  This is claim 1. It is false. Whether acid or alkali, a normally healthy body use the respiratory and renal systems to keep us at a fairly constant Ph level.

However, by testing a range of bottled and tap water, the demonstrator managed to convey that naughty acidic water lurked everywhere, and needed to be beaten back and overcome.  Sufferers of gout, cancer, diabetes, fatness and goodness knows what else could be helped by the drinking of large quantities of alkaline water.

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There was lots of discussion too about the supposedly widespread use of Kangen water in Japan, a society where people live long lives and the water is used widely in homes, hospitals and other places. I learned in Psychology 101 that correlation does not imply causation, and here was a case of this. Also, the claims of wide use were uncheckable.

To be fair, there is a small literature that demonstrates that acid reflux can be reduced by drinking alkaline drinks.  Which makes sense. But any other health benefits are massively overblown. The cherry on the cake was when the demonstrator (herself a ‘believer’ and owner of one of their systems) claimed that if you use Kangen water you will never be sick again!  I wrote it down so I didn’t forget it. We can call that claim 2.

The Kangen system is a machine that attaches to your tap in the kitchen. It costs up to $5000 NZ.  And here is where we get to the heart of the scheme. It is capitalism at its worst, a sort of pyramid selling scheme aimed at keeping the orders coming in. No doubt it makes people very, very, sorry and rather sick.  It subjugates sellers at the bottom to its model, and enriches those at the top.

The notion that it is a valuable, value-for-money system is made during a ‘frank’ spiel about the costs and benefits.  I set my friend up to ask the question of why it was so expensive for such a simple machine; a question that really upset the demonstrator.  The answer involved first titanium and platinum components, then a long discussion of the immense value for money that the machine brought. This is claim 3.

Incidentally, people were told they would have access to ‘no credit check’ finance to purchase the machine, repayable at an affordable rate.  The message is clear. The poor, as well as the rich, would have the ability to access this life-giving product, because of the wonderful finance terms.

The Kangen claims have reached three strikes territory. The water is alkaline but it does not restore the bodies balance – bodies self-regulate.  It will not make you well nor stop you ever being sick again. It might help a little, because it is alkaline, with acid reflux. I recommend a glass of water with a slice of cucumber in it (or lemon which is acid, but turns alkaline in the body).

Finally, the cost. Why is it so expensive?  Those who have investigated this matter point out that the technology is not complex.  A water filter, an electrolysis unit through which the water passes (Year 9 science) , a control panel (electronic) and some hoses and fittings.  These same investigators estimate that 90% of the price is actually the cost of the distribution network, where everyone from the top to the bottom (i.e. the individual distributor) gets a cut of the surplus.  Thus the middle people who run a stable of distributors get a nice income without even having to sell Kangen themselves.

It is also structured a bit like a drug cartel.  Those at the bottom are users and believers who attempt to recruit others to purchase machines.  In our case, the distributor was still paying hers off and managing to meet the payments. This kind of unsecured debt, pushing useless products on one’s peers and unconsciously acting as a predator in poor communities is quite typical, and mires people living in poverty further into debt.

The last thing that the people in that room today need is Kangen water. But faced with lots of needs, a persuasive (if false) discourse and access to free credit, some will invite Mr Kangen into their homes and probably try to sell it to their friends.


Dr Liz Gordon began her working life as a university lecturer at Massey and the Canterbury universities. She spent six years as an Alliance MP, before starting her own research company, Pukeko Research.  Her work is in the fields of justice, law, education and sociology (poverty and inequality). She is the president of Pillars, a charity that works for the children of prisoners, a prison volunteer, and is on the board of several other organisations. Her mission is to see New Zealand freed from the shackles of neo-liberalism before she dies (hopefully well before!).


  1. Ha! Fabulous @ Dr LG.
    Where there are snakes, there is oil.
    Banksters and loan sharks, which are one and the same, use similar tactics.
    Why is an often a poorly built Late Victorian or early Edwardian house in Ponsonby selling for millions? Good question, right?

    You seen ‘White Gold’ yet? Prepare your toes to be curled.

  2. So you’ve never spent a week swimming in Kai Iwi Lakes, just rain water makes the whole body feel wonderful. If the haven’t been destroyed by the jet skis. They are free. That aside fully agree with your post.
    http://www.vandruff.com/mlm.html is informative about multi level scams.

  3. Happy to read this post and to warn others from this health and financial scam.
    These machines have a very basic filter which does not remove much at all especially things like fluoride.
    Kangen also wastes a lot of water in its process to make high pH water and builds a lot of toxins on their metallic plates which needs to be cleaned regularly.
    Kangen machine don’t make the water alkaline at all. the ionising process simply lifts the pH, there is a difference between higher pH and high alkaline. Real alkaline water is healthy for you, but this artificially made water is not healthy at all as a few studies have shown.

    I feel for all the gullible people who get lied into buying them.

  4. So a nice middle class University educated white woman goes to a snake oil meeting and feels superior to the non white people who are about to be ripped off! Snake oil sells because life is so dreadful that any way out is better than living as they are!

  5. “So a nice middle class University educated white woman”.

    Nothing wrong with being nice Lucy – I wish more people were.

    Nothing wrong with being middle class Lucy – They’re a vanishing species.

    Nothing wrong with being university educated Lucy- Well not until today.

    Nothing wrong with being white Lucy – But it’s getting harder and harder.

    What Liz has to say is as valid as anybody else, and as a woman I like hearing other woman speak up, and when they are as patently educated as she is, I’m more inclined to listen and to say – Thank you.

    Saying that she feels superior is conjecture – And so what anyway ?

    The message Lucy, the message, the message. Hear it, just as I hear yours. Kia kaha.

  6. Snow White my point is that the article comes across as patronizing and rude. The haha I am so smart I would not be caught by this scam attitude does not help! As a person with a chronic disability I know how many scams are out there because people want a cure, because to live in a society that really wants the poor, the unfit, the different to be excluded takes every bit of energy you have. Wherever you have pain, longing and desperation you have people trying to make money out of the sufferers. The people at these meeting are trying to find hope, most have been failed by the current ways they have tried to make their lives better. The message should be mobilise against the people and the institutions that harm people to the point of needing witchcraft to have a normal life.

    • Hey Lucy, eye of the beholder here. Not rude. Went with flatmate to see what I could see. Was shocked and upset about it. Did some research to find out what the hell was going on. Found out was going on. Felt bad for friends of friends. Wrote about it.
      The spiel presented at that session was persuasive. It essentially answered everything that any of those people wanted to know. Some of the answers given were wrong. Some in depth research (a couple of hours work) revealed the truth under the spiel.
      Save my friends investment in snake oil. AM happy

      • Liz I apologose for a bit of a personal attack but did feel like there was a bit of a superior thing going on – wrongly. Have been to a number of miracle cure things and the reality is that they are very persuasive as they try and hype you to signing up and to believe. I am glad you saved your friends, wish something like the Commerce Commission could shut down the rahrah meetings for all the wonder drugs, wonder cleaners, shopping trucks and all the other ways ruthless people sell from the poorest in our society.

    • My apologies Lucy. I do see how this article may appear patronising, and I agree 100% about scams which take advantage of often very desperate people.

      Could blame the Nats – and they have much to answer for – for their health privatisation by stealth, and removing often simple services – like physiotherapy for MS sufferers – and I could ask why has none of this been systematically addressed by the MSM, but heaven knows who cares.

      I don’t mean to trivialise your response at all, because being different in NZ has never been easy, it’s getting worse, and living in constant pain, or fear, and then being taken advantage of is very bad and very sad.

      I keep hoping that we find a great inspirational leader from somewhere who is able to galvanise the country to be courageous, and be decent.

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