Analysis of Oral IV and Commentary


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If you’ve been paying attention in the tactical community in the past week, you’ve probably noticed the flurry of activity regarding the rehydration supplement Oral IV. That activity was generated by a report published over at Special Circumstances Inc. and authored by myself and Ian Wendt. In that report we detail an ongoing investigation into Oral IV, including the results of a chemical analysis. The report also details the byzantine web of companies and individuals that seem to surround and make up Oral IV’s manufacturer. To say that this report has created a “shit storm” would likely be an understatement.
If you want to jump right into the thick of things, the report can be found here “Tactical Snake Oil Part 2: Chemical Analysis of Oral IV”.

If you’ve not been paying attention, then a short bit of background is in order. For the past little while a rehydration supplement called Oral IV has been making the rounds. Getting a lot of press, and even some high caliber endorsements from celebrities in the tactical industry, the supplement has none the less raised questions. Although Oral IV, a product of Hydration Solutions Inc., is slickly marketed as the latest and greatest scientific achievement in hydration, once you get past the jargon, many things don’t add up. For example, if you look to the end user community, at forum threads, blogs and social media posts, a distinct trend emerges: Everywhere Oral IV is mentioned in earshot of medical professionals, individuals with a knowledge of chemistry or biology, or combat athletes with a hard-knocks education in hydration, there is a wellspring of dissent and doubt.
Primary among these questions is, of course, that of simple performance. Does it work? Oral IV claims to achieve cellular rehydration in 60 seconds. A claim which goes in the face of all known science regarding hydration. On that alone, many professionals and experienced end-users around the community have declared the answer to be “No. It doesn’t work.” Others have taken it themselves, and come to the same conclusion. Although much of the industry media has glowingly shared marketing from Hydration Solutions, many members of the community have provided more thoughtful, and doubtful, commentary. Among them, my colleague Ian Wendt, who published this initial write-up on Oral IV’s apparent problems http://specialcircumstancesinc.blogspot.com/2011/08/tactical-snake-oil-or-why-you-should.html in 2011.
Essentially, if the rehydration claims made by Hydration Solutions were true of Oral IV, the product would be seeing use in every hospital and clinic from Ghana to Queens and back again the other way ’round. Hydration is a fundamental concern of modern medicine, and anything that could so rapidly improve hydration would be a serious boon for patient outcomes. Of course, that’s not happening. The product has no studies done on it, and no scientific evidence has actually been presented supporting it’s claims. And yet, Oral IV continues to be a hit particularly in the tactical and first responder industries, and continues to be promoted by industry players.
Observing this, and talking with colleagues in the medical and tactical fields about the need for real information on this product, Ian Wendt and myself began investigating. Our investigation remains ongoing, but on 13 June, 2013, we posted a report on the Special Circumstances website detailing our findings up to that time including a chemical analysis of Oral IV. You can view this report here: http://specialcircumstancesinc.blogspot.com/2013/06/tactical-snake-oil-part-2-chemical.html

The full report of our findings and the investigation up to this point, can be read at Special Circumstances, but I’ll give you the highlights here.
The claimed ingredients of Oral IV are as follows:
“Copper (Cu)
Iodine (I)
Manganese (Mn)
Zinc (Zn)
Potassium (K)
Cobalt (Co)
Sodium (Na)
Selenium (Se)
Chromium (Cr)
Silica (Si)
Boron (B)
Magnesium (Mg)” (This last one is a possible. Whether it appears in the official ingredient list depends entirely on which website you look at.)
Note that all of these ingredients are provided by Oral IV without further information, such as concentration.

The actual ingredients of Oral IV as found in our analysis:

Element

Reported Concentration

Ba (Barium)

0.007

Ca (Calcium)

1.414

Fe (Iron)

0.026

K (Potassium)

0.115

Li (Lithium)

0.011

Mg (Magnesium)

0.077

Mn (Manganese)

0.013

Na (Sodium)

396.700

P (Phosphorus)

0.269

S (Sulfur)

1.678

Sr (Strontium)

0.010

Cr (Chromium)

0.029

Co (Cobalt)

0.052

 It is important to note that this analysis was performed on an inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrograph by experienced chemists with appropriate specialization. As you see, this analysis finds that Oral IV does not contain all the reported ingredients, and contains many unreported ingredients. Among those unreported ingredients, Barium, which can be toxic at higher levels. Also note the reported concentrations. Those concentrations are per liter of fluid, when Oral IV comes in a fifteen milliliter (15ml) vial. Each dose of Oral IV contains more than sixty-times less than the amounts you see above.
In comparing these results to the published information on Gatorade, we see that Gatorade has higher (if only slightly) sodium (450.7mg/L, compared to 396.7mg/L) but that the potassium provided by Gatorade is significantly higher (126.8 mg/L for Gatorade, compared to 0.115mg/L for Oral IV).
Going further, we compared the ingredients and concentrations in Oral IV to tap water from Bernalillo County NM.
ORAL IV Chart
In looking at this chart, comparing USGS water survey results for Bernalillo County tap water to our findings on Oral IV, although we see that although the sodium is much higher in Oral IV it’s important to remember you only get that much from a whole liter of Oral IV ($183 worth). More damning is the fact that Potassium and Calcium are both much higher in tap water than in Oral IV.

So, that’s what we found, and published, and thus ensued the great shit storm of twenty an’ thirteen. Most of that storm has been positive responses to, and sharing of, our report as well as the publication of other research and opinions condemning Oral IV by other trainers and thinkers in the community. Of the little negative response that has come up to our report, much of it has come from the company and its endorsers. With that in mind, I’d like to jump on a few of those supposed counter-points that’ve been raised in recent days.
At this point, one of the primary responses to our work has been the sudden claim that Oral IV was never presented as an electrolyte supplement, and that we’ve misrepresented how Oral IV is supposed to work. We first heard this claim over the weekend from one of the tactical trainers who supports Oral IV (recently adding it to his webstore even), and have now seen this claim mirrored in the responses from Oral IV to our article, and changes to the text on their website OralIV.com.
Currently, Oral IV is saying “ORAL I.V. is not an electrolyte replacement” and making edits of their website to reflect this new take. In the past, however, they have stated “Is ORAL IV all I need? No… ORAL IV does not replenish any more water that the15mL that is in the bottle; you must also drink fluids (we recommend just water) along with ORAL IV. What ORAL IV does dois[sic] immediately provide the electrolytes that your body needs,making your body more efficient at using the water you do take in.”
So there it is, saying that all you need in addition to Oral IV is pure water. They’ve further said, “For rapid rehydration we recommend only ORAL I.V.™ Crystalloid Electrolyte Rapid Rehydration Fluid.” On top of that, much has been made by Hydration Solutions of the use of Oral IV at Best Ranger competition, claiming Oral IV was solely responsible for preventing heat casualties at that competition, further implying its nature as a complete electrolyte source.
In the past marketing for Oral IV has also said the following, “Electrolyte and essential mineral replacement is crucial in restoring proper blood sugar levels, and is necessary for enzymatic reactions that promote correct blood volume. Without them the quality of performance during long-term or explosive short-term exercise decreases. ORAL I.V. has been formulated to provide Crystalloid Electrolytes and essential trace minerals to keep the body operating at peak performance.”
Despite saying Electrolyte replacement is crucial, and then implying that Oral IV has been formulated to provide that, the line we’re being given now is that it’s not an electrolyte replacement. So which is it, “the electrolytes your body needs” or not an electrolyte replacement?

Another argument that keeps coming up in favor of Oral IV is that of the blood tests, used as proof that Oral IV actually works by both Hydration Solutions and their supporters. The type of blood analysis being used by Oral IV and its endorsers is live blood cell analysis by darkfield microscopy. This method is a staple of the alternative medicine community, which essentially amounts to slight of hand.
To quote from Quackwatch, http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Tests/livecell.html “Dark-field microscopy is a valid scientific tool in which special lighting is used to examine specimens of cells and tissues. The objects being viewed stand out against a dark background—the opposite of what occurs during regular microscopy. This allows the observer to see things that might not be visible with standard lighting. Connecting a television monitor to a microscope for diagnostic purposes is also a legitimate practice. However, live cell analysis is not. Most of its users are chiropractors, naturopaths, or bogus “nutrition consultants.”
Results from this method being shown as supposed proof of efficacy of any supplement (not just Oral IV) should be regarded as highly suspect. More details on darkfield microscopy, its use in alternative medicine and the significant problems with it, can be found at the following pages:
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/live-blood-analysis-the-modern-auguries/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_blood_analysis

The next point I’d like to address is that of feedback from end-users. Hydration Solutions has said, in response to our work, that the end-users are overwhelmingly positive about Oral IV, and this is simply not true. As mentioned above, when taking the time to search through the industry forums, blogs and social media feeds a great deal of far less than positive feedback can be found from end users.
Since before we tackled this issue, users have been posting negative feedback online, in addition to the various experts who have questioned it all along. This is not something new, and we’re not the first or only to express concern about this product. In fact, it was the concern and doubt expressed widely throughout the community, despite the media and celebrity attention, that lead us to starting this ongoing investigation.
Further, we are not the only ones in the industry expressing doubt. In recent days, several other figures in the field have come forward with their doubts and experiences with Oral IV, among them Andrew Tuohy at Vuurwaapen, and Nate Morrison of Morrison Industries. Tuohy has announced plans to do comparison testing involving Oral IV as well, so if you’re in his area, reach out. The more that we can share and learn about this product, our experiences with it and any data that can be collected, the better off the whole community will be.

A few other notes: The information provided is from preliminary work. There is more research being done, and more data to come. This process takes time. We are working stiffs, with lives and families to attend to above all, and not an unlimited well of cash or time. Oral IV isn’t worth our families starving, but that’s the rub. The product seems, to an educated mind, potentially dangerous and is being marketed heavily to those putting their lives on the line for others. We don’t want the Firefighter or EMT coming to our 911 call depending on a product that isn’t helping him. We don’t want the Police Officer responding to threats at our neighborhood school trusting her well-being to something that is all hype and no help. So we’ve taken the route of using the tools available to us, and publishing what we have, when we have it. The stakes are too high to do anything else.
Is this as flashy and dramatic as as anything a large corporation, or their running dogs in the industry media, can leverage? Nope. We’re not investing, or calling on investors to pony up, huge sums in an effort to bring in millions in revenue or keep the advertising dollars flowing. This is about you, the end user, and your actual needs under pressure. Needs which are, in this case, being vastly let down by hyped up marketing and a lack of real scientific evidence.

As a penultimate point, we’ve gotten some responses that suggest this is either a personal vendetta or some sort of hostile business move, calling into question our reasons for this investigation and our integrity. To be clear, we have no personal “beef” with anyone involved with Hydration Solutions, or any of their industry supporters. In many cases the opposite is true, we have a great respect for some of the names who’ve unfortunately lent their weight to Oral IV. At least one of those individuals has taught at a conference where Ian and I also taught, and is someone we considered a colleague in the community. It is a real regret that this issue has proven to be so divisive, and seems to be contributing to personal rifts in the industry.
Further, we have no financial interest in this issue, are not employed by competing businesses, or manufacturing a competing product, no do we have any interest in such. Our only interest here is that the end-users in this community deserve better than pseudo-science and marketing hype. Life savers and high risk professionals in the tactical and first response communities should be treated with more respect than to be bamboozled and deceived by crass profiteers. Our interest is that we not sit idly by, allowing this to happen, when we know better. The fact that our integrity been called into question by some, when this is purely an issue of our standards being higher than theirs, is extremely disappointing. The existing standards should absolutely be higher than they have been in this case. The tactical arena is one of the few in which independent study and peer-review are not among our standards for verifying products, and that leaves it wide open for hucksters and quacks. Companies selling products in these arenas should engage in honesty and transparency, and industry leaders should demand it of products they promote. The fact that this isn’t demanded, allows for a great deal of obfuscation and dishonesty to prevail. We’re doing our small part to change that.

Finally, do not fault the retailers who’ve sold this product. They are victims of the marketing hype and not culprits of any dishonesty. They are in business, and Oral IV is currently big business. A retailer without the resources to do anything but trust the claims of manufacturers and industry leaders, cannot be faulted for carrying this product at this time. Make them aware of this research, and allow them to make up their minds for themselves just like anyone else, and then spend your dollar accordingly.

Please remember, the original article appearing at Special Circumstances is Copyrighted under a Creative Commons license that allows for redistribution (so long as no changes are made and attribution is given, and the work is not used for commercial purposes). We hope this encourages you to redistribute this work: Post it, share it on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, your favorite forums or on your own blogs! Just put a link back to Special Circumstances and BFE Labs when you do.