What is ASEA? Well, if you go to the product’s website they say that “ASEA is trillions of stable, perfectly balanced Redox Signaling Molecules suspended in a pristine saline solution.” That’s a very complicated description for this health and wellness drink that is pretty popular—judging from all the emails I get on it. From the moment I first heard about ASEA water, I’ve been intrigued because I know exactly what “redox” refers to and it’s not a word I’ve ever heard used to promote supplements before. Keep reading and you will know why.
What Is Redox Signaling?
At the heart of ASEA (pronounced “ah-sea-ah”) is something called Redox Signaling. To explain this, I’m going to have to talk a little bit about science―but no worries, I’m going to explain it so you can understand it.
The word Redox refers to reduction and oxidation. These are terms used in science to refer to the transfer of electrons (negatively charged particles).
Electrons carry a negative electrical charge. When a molecule receives an electron, its overall electrical charged is reduced (it’s becoming more negatively charged).
It is from the word reduction (being reduced) that we get the “Red” in Redox Signaling.
At the other end of this, is the word oxidation. When a molecule has electrons removed from it, it’s said to be oxidized. This means the electrical charge of the molecule is becoming less negative (in other words, they are becoming more positively charged).
It’s from the word oxidation (being oxidized) that we get the “ox” in Redox Signaling.
So, Redox is a combination of the words reduction and oxidization.
Tip. You may have heard of the phrase “oxidative stress,” which is basically the stress of free radical damage to our cells. As oxidative stress increases, the chances for disease increase. This is why people often say free radicals are “bad.”
Having said all this, Redox Signaling is about adding and subtracting electrons to to alter the characteristics of atoms and molecules and in this way transfer signals between those molecules and atoms. The signals represent information.
This information can result in good stuff or bad stuff happening. For example, some researchers have implicated Redox Signaling in the development of heart disease.
Redox Signaling in Plain English
Ever since I first heard of ASEA water, I felt the term “Redox Signaling molecules” confused the daylights out of people because I was sure nobody―outside of a laboratory―had ever heard of it before. That said, I’m positive most people reading this have heard of this stuff before. It’s just that they know it by other names.
Those other names are antioxidants and free radicals!
I’m sure EVERYBODY has heard about free radicals. They are molecules and atoms that remove electrons, and in doing so, disrupt normal cellular operations. When free radicals remove electrons, they oxidize stuff.
The free radical in turn―because it has gained an electron―becomes reduced.
So, you see, free radial reactions are just Redox reactions. The same is also true about antioxidant reactions.
This says to me that the Redox Signaling molecules that ASEA refers to are combinations of antioxidants and free radicals!
Basic ASEA Theory: The idea here is that these antioxidant/free radical molecules, suspended in a salt solution, are able to transfer healthy/good information to our cells when we drink ASEA. It’s an interesting idea but is there any proof for it?
We’re going to talk about that…
I know some people may not like that I am using the word “free radical” in the same sentence as ASEA. So, I want to further prove this point by briefly talking about the ingredients in the product by using the very same words used to describe the product.
The product’s website says that “ASEA is trillions of stable, perfectly balanced Redox Signaling molecules suspended in a pristine saline solution.”
They say the Redox Signaling molecules are grouped into two types:
- Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)
- Reduced Species (RS)
- Reactive Oxygen Species = free radicals
- Reduced Species = antioxidants
I take these names as further proof that ASEA is touted to contain a combination of antioxidants and free radicals.
Having said that, it makes sense why the company would not use the words antioxidants and free radicals:
- Free radicals are usually associated with being “bad.”
- Using different names implies the product is different/unique.
In other words, calling the molecules different names is just good marketing.
All that said, what I want to do now is try to determine if there is any research on ASEA and what that research says.
There is a human study on ASEA. It was conducted by Dr. Andrew Shanley and Dr. David Nieman at Appalachian State University. Oddly, the study title and its location of publication were not mentioned on the ASEA.net website when I investigated it.
Instead, the ASEA website has a summary of the study, complete with charts, graphs, and even a video—which all look pretty impressive.
I wanted to see the study myself, so I did some digging and found it.
The study, funded by ASEA, appeared in the FASEB journal in 2012. The title of the study is Influence of a redox-signaling supplement on biomarkers of physiological stress in athletes: a metabolomics approach.
In this study lasting 1 week, 20 people rode a stationary bike as fast as they could for 46 miles (75 km). They were randomly given 4 oz of ASEA or 4 oz of a placebo per day for a week before the test and 16 oz of ASEA (or placebo, which actually was salt water) during the test. Blood samples were taken before, immediately after, and 1 hour after exercise to see what changes occurred.
- ASEA did not help people ride the bike any faster compared to placebo
- ASEA did not reduce exercise-induced inflammation compared to placebo
- ASEA did not reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress compared to placebo
- ASEA did not alter exercise-induced changes in immune function compared to placebo
Why aren’t these VERY important findings mentioned in the fancy-looking summary that’s located on the ASEA website. This is the most important stuff—especially if you are an athlete!
The study does note that “ASEA supplementation caused a significant shift in 43 metabolites” before exercise occurred―especially free fatty acids and vitamin C. This is nice, What about during exercise? There is no mention of fatty acid availability during exercise.
Having more fatty acids available at rest is nice, but when it comes to athletes using ASEA, I think these changes are not relevant because it didn’t improve their exercise performance (they didn’t ride the bike any faster!).
On the summary of the study appearing on the ASEA website, they assume that the increased fatty acid use during exercise means the cyclists used less glycogen (stored carbohydrates). They are assuming this happened―but did they prove it? It doesn’t look like it – and this is too bad because this would be pretty easy to figure out.
For example, the researchers could have measured something called the Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER). This would have told the researchers how much fat and carbs were being used during exercise. But RER does not appear to have been measured in this study (it’s not mentioned), so we can’t know for sure if the athletes used less glycogen or not.
The other thing about this study is that even though it appears in the journal Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), it appears as an abstract.
Here’s the thing, abstracts are summaries of research that do not necessarily have to go through the peer review process. In fact, the FASEB website states that “Meeting abstracts are not peer-reviewed and are not under the regulation of The FASEB Journal”
This lack of peer review greatly decreases the significance of the findings, in my view―no matter what the caliber of the researchers doing the study.
In 2013, ASEA commissioned another study. This investigation also appears in the FASEB journal and is titled Effects of ASEA beverage intake on endurance performance in mice. In this study, mice were force-fed ASEA or a placebo for 7 days prior to running to exhaustion. The results showed that mice getting ASEA ran about 29% longer than those that got the placebo. Interesting stuff—but it’s a mouse study. This study also appears only as an abstract in the journal.
Based on these 2 studies, the scientist in me asks the following questions:
1. Why did ASEA first fund a study on people and then choose to go backward to study mice? This logic almost reminds me of the research on Protandim, an anti-aging supplement I reviewed previously.
2. Why did ASEA spend all that money to fund these two studies – and then not have them go through the peer review process? Both the human study and mouse study are only abstracts. As I stated before, abstracts carry less weight than a peer-reviewed study.
Other ASEA Research
On the Science page of the ASEA.net site, I saw 9 downloadable pdf files that anyone can view. I’ll summarize each of them below. They are as follows:
1. ASEA Safety Studies Summary. This paper is also titled: ASEA Ingestion, Safety, Summary from Human Studies North Carolina Research Campus Human Performance Laboratory.
This study looked at how ASEA was tolerated in 106 overweight people who drank 4 oz of ASEA per day for 12 weeks compared to placebo. Results: No problems were noted from ASEA use compared to placebo. ASEA had no effect on cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels or CRP levels—all of which were high in this group of overweight people. They don’t mention if people lost weight or not.
- This is not a published peer-reviewed study.
2. PNNL Safety Report. This paper is also titled “Data from an In vitro Study Relating to Product Safety (Note: PNNL stands for Pacific North West National Laboratory)
This was basically a test tube study. ASEA did not result in any toxicity when cells were exposed to it. That’s good.
- This is not a peer-reviewed study.
3. Reactive Molecules Verification. This paper is also titled “Verification Procedure for Reactive Molecules in ASEA.”
This is just a paper that talks about quality control of ASEA. I’m happy they have quality control measures in place. That says a lot about the company.
4. ASEA Antioxidant Efficiency. This paper is also titled “Report for ASEA on Experimental Results-In Vitro Antioxidant Enhancement and Oxidative Stress Reduction.”
This paper relates how cell cultures treated with ASEA showed improvements in the antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and glutathione peroxidase (GPX).
Some may have heard of claims that ASEA improves antioxidant enzymes by 500% over normal. Those claims appear to be based on this paper.
- This is not a published peer-reviewed study.
- This is test tube study.
- Effects in cell cultures do not necessarily mean the same effects occur in humans.
- The paper says “Report to ASEA” but does not tell who wrote the report.
5. Athletics. This paper is also titled “Report to ASEA on VO2max Athletic Endurance Enhancement Testing.”
I think this is the same as the “White Paper” summarized below.
- This is not a published peer-reviewed paper.
- There was no placebo group.
6. ASEA Metabolite Findings FAQ
This is an FAQ paper summarizing the results of an exercise study of 20 people conducted by Dr. Andrew Shanley and Dr. David Neiman of Appalachian State University. I’ve summarized the study above, in the “ASEA Research” section.
- The study is an abstract and does not appear to be peer reviewed.
- The summary leaves out several important findings revealed by the researchers.
7. ASEA Research Summary Presentation
This is titled “ASEA Metabolomics Results.” It’s the human exercise study I summarized above.
8. White Paper on the Effect of an Immune-Supporting Supplement, ASEA, on Athletic Performance based on a Pilot VO2max Test
In this paper, ASEA improved aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance in 18 well-conditioned men and women who either rode a bike or ran on a treadmill.
- There is no placebo group.
- The study is not published in a peer-reviewed journal.
9. White paper: Bioactivity of ASEA™ Related to Toxicity, Glutathione Peroxidase, Superoxide Dismutase Efficacy and Related Transcription Factors
- This is a test tube study.
- It does not appear to be published in a peer-review journal.
ASEA and Exercise
Because of the research done so far, I’m betting there are some aerobic athletes (runners, cyclists, etc.) who may be wondering if ASEA can help them perform better. What I can say at this point is despite what you may have heard, there is no good proof either way. The human exercise study on ASEA only showed more fat released at rest (before exercise occurred). There is no evidence of greater fat use (or less glycogen use) during exercise. Look over my summary of the human ASEA study for more information.
If there are any bodybuilders reading this, I want you to know that there is currently no ASEA research that involves bodybuilders, strength trainers, or powerlifters.
ASEA and Weight Loss
It’s possible some people may be considering ASEA because they have heard that it might help them to burn fat at rest or raise their metabolism. As far as I can tell, any claims about ASEA helping burn fat, stem from the human exercise study summarized above. In that investigation, it was noted that people who drank 4 oz of ASEA per day for a week, had a greater release of fatty acids (triglycerides) at rest.
While this is an intriguing finding, I want to point out that the human exercise ASEA study was not looking at weight loss. I’m not aware if any weight loss occurred in the people involved in that 1-week study. Bottom line: I have no proof it helps or doesn’t help weight loss. That said, even the ASEA company themselves state (in the Metabolite Findings FAQ) “It is wrong to think of ASEA as a weight-loss product.”
Before deciding, check out what others are saying before making a decision.
Isn’t ASEA Just Salt Water?
I’m not yet prepared to say that ASEA is salt water because the human study of 20 cyclists actually used salt water as a placebo. If it were just salt water, no differences should have occurred. Even though I’m critical of that study ―for reasons already mentioned ― it did appear to show that something different was going on between ASEA and placebo treatments. The big question however is whether that “something” results in a significant impact on health. I say, let’s do better research and see.
ASEA and Health?
Is ASEA a good “health drink?” Ultimately, this is an individual decision that I feel is best decided after weighing all the evidence with a critical/unbiased eye, as I’ve tried to do here.
As is mentioned in the ASEA Safety Summary (which is not peer reviewed) ASEA appears to have no effect on blood sugar, cholesterol or CPR levels. So far also, it only appears to alter antioxidant enzymes in a test tube. The human exercise study involving 20 cyclists also noted no changes in inflammation or exercise-induced free radical stress or immune function either.
Even so, I’d personally like to see future ASEA studies address these and other aspects of health to get a better idea of what might be happening. Currently, I don’t think there is enough good proof to make a final judgment either way at this point.
Who Makes ASEA?
ASEA is a product of ASEA LLC, which is located at 6550 Millrock Dr Ste 100, Salt Lake City, UT 84121-6000. ASEA is located at “Ste 100″ which I take to mean “Suite 100.” This indicates that ASEA is one of several companies at this address. I want to point this out because there is a picture of the building on the ASEA website. I felt this picture gave the impression that the entire building belongs to ASEA. It does not.
For example, when I searched the address on Google, I found the Buckner Insurance Company that is located at Suite 300 of the same address. They also show the same building on their website.
The Better Business Bureau gives ASEA LLC a rating of “F” as of 4/2/14. Do check the BBB file link for any updates, as ratings sometimes change quickly.
How to Contact ASEA
According to the Better Business Bureau, ASEA has a contact number of (801) 973-7499. The website lists an Associate Support number of 801-973-7499 for those who sell ASEA.
How Much ASEA Is Needed?
The ASEA website says that “Years of usage among consumers has shown that drinking 2 to 4 oz of ASEA per day is sufficient for normal health maintenance.” This statement implies that the ASEA company has been tracking ASEA use by consumers over the course of several years to see what effects it has on different health conditions. If this is so, where is that evidence? I can’t find any research showing that people need a specific amount of ASEA to remain healthy.
This amount is similar to what is recommended for TriVita Nopalea juice, another health drink I previously reviewed.
ASEA Side Effects
The ASEA website says that “ASEA is proven safe to all tissues, organs, and systems of the body.” I’m guessing that they are basing this statement on the non-peer reviewed ASEA safety study of 106 overweight people, mentioned above and on the ASEA science page. Im not aware of any bad side effects either, so my guess is that ASEA is likely pretty safe for most people.
Because ASEA contains some salt, that theoretically may be an issue for those with high blood pressure or kidney problems. The ASEA website does say that the amount of salt in ASEA is less than that in a carrot. When in doubt check with your doctor if you feel this applies to you.
Does ASEA Work?
For the moment, I’m going to say save your money until better research is done. What I have tried to do here is cut through the big and often complicated words and ideas used within the world of ASEA and show people what it appears to be as well as what the research shows it does and doesn’t do. Based on what I see, I can’t recommend ASEA water at this time. I’ll be the first to admit that lack of evidence does not mean something does not work, and while I am a little intrigued, I also have to say that all the big words (Redox Signaling molecules, reactive oxygen species, etc.) used to describe this product, just make my Spidey sense tingle. Looking over everything I was able to find on this supplement, my instincts tell me ASEA is long on marketing and – currently – short on good proof, but for those who want to see what others are saying here is ASEA on Amazon.
What do you think?