Our friend and lover of H2, Biochemist Tyler LeBaron recently posted this quite excellent summation of the placebo effect.

What is the PLACEBO effect?

Many skeptics have claimed that the purported benefits of ionized alkaline water are simply attributed to the placebo effect. In stark contrast many who realize that the benefits of the water are not simply attributed to the placebo effect, quickly declare, “it is not Placebo”. I know all of you know that the water has remarkable therapeutic potential due to the dissolved H2 gas , so I don’t need to explain that. But I do see the need to discuss what the placebo effect really is.

(Ian: see this link on his site)

FALSE
Many people incorrectly believe that the placebo effect is simply a psychological phenomenon wherein people just “think” they feel better, but they don’t really get better (aka its all in you head). For example, a diabetic who “feels” better after drinking the water, but nothing physiologically has changed (e.g. sugar levels). In other words they believe the placebo effect is only in the brain, but not the actual body (i.e. psychological, but NOT physiological).

Therefore when people ingest something (the water, vitamin, herb, etc.) and they actually have physiological changes (e.g. less pain, lower blood sugar, better eyesight, etc.), they then declare that the substance truly is therapeutic and not just placebo. However, this conclusion is incorrect as it is based on a faulty premise.

TRUTH
The fact is the placebo effect is a phenomenon wherein there is a real physiological, not just psychological benefit. The placebo effect is very powerful. It has been shown to have highly beneficial effects on chronic pain, inflammation, glucose levels, hormones, depression, etc. The placebo effect actually causes real measurable biochemical changes. Interestingly the effects of the placebo are even altered by “pill size”, color, oral ingestion vs. inhalant or injection, etc. The benefits of the placebo can last for at least over two years for things like rheumatoid arthritis.

The placebo effect is so powerful that in some cases it works just as effectively as proven drugs (e.g. NSAIDs). Interestingly, there is also evidence that in some cases animals = can be subject to the placebo effect as well. There is also the NOCEBO effect, which is basically the opposite of the placebo effect. That is people believe that a certain thing will cause harm and it does.

IMPORTANTLY, just because a certain treatment (e.g. H2-water, drug, herb, etc.) really does work in and of itself, this does not mean that the placebo effect is not providing additional benefits!!! So those of us drinking hydrogen-water, the more we believe it will help us, the higher the probability that it will benefit us even beyond the normal amount.

The FACT that the placebo effect is a real physiological phenomenon helps us partly understand why many genuine “snake-oil” products seem to actually work, and also why alkaline water with NO hydrogen gas can also be of some benefit under the right conditions. Thus the importance of placebo-controlled studies.