Dear Mark: What Are the Health Benefits of Negative Ions?
Mark’s Daily Apple
by Mark Sisson: Not
Only Did I Break Past My Plateau, I Demolished It
been through a health store has heard about ions. If it’s
not someone offering samples of ionized water, it’s someone
selling ionized bracelets. It sounds wacky, woo-woo, crazy, and
as if it belongs firmly in the same realm as crystals, magnet therapy,
and cryptozoology (although the kid in me is still holding out hope
that both Squatch and Nessie are found), but is there actual science
behind this negative ion stuff, or are the people who buy into this
stuff totally off their rockers? Today, we venture into what some
might consider the realm of the non-scientific to discuss negative
ionizers – both the natural kinds (like waterfalls) and the
man-made variety (negative ion generators).
get to it:
almost scared/embarrassed to even ask you about this, but here
goes: my friend, who’s into crystals, homeopathy, and other
types of alternative health modalities with less than concrete
supporting evidence, has been talking my ear off about negative
and positive ions. She’s got her entire house decked out
with negative ion generators and she’s always trying to
“avoid positive ions.” I’ve even seen her ducking
past air conditioners. Is there anything to this, or is she crazy?
take a look.
lest we fall into the trap of talking about abstractions (a la “toxins”),
let’s define our terms. What are ions?
Ions are atoms
or molecules in which the number of electrons is different than
the number of protons. In other words, an ion is a negatively (more
electrons than protons) or positively (more protons than electrons)
charged atom or molecule. Positively charged ions are called cations,
while negatively charged ions are called anions. Because they are
either positively or negatively charged, ions are “mobile.”
ions generally appear in natural settings in greater numbers than
positive ions. For instance, negative ions are generated
by moving water – rivers, waterfalls, crashing waves, even
showers and fountains – and the presence
of negative ions is actually used to identify potential sources
of water on other planetary bodies, like Enceladus and Titan.
Waterfalls are probably the greatest producers of negative ions,
thanks to the violence with which falling water breaks apart on
both hard and aqueous surfaces (PDF).
also produce negative ions, especially when exposed to intense
light during photosynthesis.
great and all. Everyone likes waterfalls and all, but does the fact
that they generate lots of negative air ions have any bearing on
They can certainly
exert “physiological effects” on living things. In fact,
that negative and positive air ions could have physiological effects
on people was once a field of serious study, but after snake
oil salesmen released a slew of air ion generators with the promise
that they’d cure cancer, heart disease, and just about every
malady under the sun in the 1950s, the reputation of the field was
forever tarnished. Research continued, but its name was
sullied, and little serious attention was paid to its findings.
The result is that anytime anyone even mentions “ions,”
they’ll get laughed out of the room or immediately branded
a nut job. And that’s a shame, because there is something
to this stuff.
Even if some
modern skeptics pride themselves on discarding an idea that sounds
a little kooky without doing any actual research, that doesn’t
mean evidence doesn’t exist. Let’s see what
the research says:
with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can afford to slumber amidst
the babbling mist of a nearby brook with the gentle caress of the
day’s first sun softly nudging them awake. It’s ideal,
indicate that simulating those conditions with negative ion generators,
naturalistic dawn simulating lights, and someone blowing raspberries
at your face can be just as effective at combating SAD as bright
light therapy (okay, maybe not that last one).
depression has also been shown to be improved
with negative ion therapy. High density ion therapy was far
more effective than low density ion therapy.
(along with bright light and auditory stimuli) reduced
subjective measurements of depression, improved mood, and reduced
anger in both depressed and non-depressed college students.
In a study
on the salivary responses of people completing a 40-minute word
processing task on the computer, exposure to negative air ions reduced
the rise in salivary chromogranin A-like immunoreactivity (a marker
of stress and anxiety) and improved performance.
the rest of the article
to Lew's recent podcast with Mark Sisson
August 24, 2012
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