Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen that contains a proton and a neutron in the nucleus of the atom. The extra neutron doubles the mass of the hydrogen atom.
It is well-known that due to its mass difference, deuterium (D) behaves differently from hydrogen in chemical reactions (called the isotope effect). In other words, deuterium can, in some ways, be considered an independent element. When deuterium combines with oxygen, the resulting water is referred to as deuterium oxide or “heavy” water –D2O. Semi-heavy water results when one atom of hydrogen and one atom of deuterium combine with oxygen: (HDO). The extra neutron may create a “pucker” in the water matrix that is involved with information storage and transfer. Water with a reduced deuterium content may have the capacity to transmit information more clearly.
Water made with deuterium tastes and looks the same but has numerous distinguishing characteristics. For example:
- Normal water boils at 100° C; heavy water boils at 101.4 °C
- Normal water freezes at 0° C; heavy water freezes at 3.8° C.
- Ice normally floats on the surface of water; ice made with heavy water sinks.
Gilbert Lewis was the first to produce a pure sample of heavy water in the 1930s. He accurately predicted its toxic effects on living organisms. His experiments showed that while tobacco seeds placed in typical water sprouted over the course of two weeks, those placed in D2O did not sprout at all. Tobacco seeds in 50/50 D2O sprouted— slowly. Subsequent experiments on cell cultures and living organisms determined that increasing the deuterium concentration of the water in an organism could disturb normal cell function. Higher concentrations were lethal. While all this was interesting, most scientists considered deuterium to be so scarce that the study of its biological effects were ignored until the 1990s.
Is deuterium really scarce?
On average, one out of every 6400 atoms of hydrogen is deuterium—the equivalent of one or two drops in a quart of water. That might seem like a small proportion—until you consider the amount of hydrogen in living matter. One out of every 6400 atoms translates to a mass of deuterium five times greater than the mass of calcium in human blood. When scientists began to look at deuterium from this perspective, they became more interested in its biological significance.
Deuterium and DNA
Although mainstream researchers have overlooked the long term effects of low-level deuterium, research indicates that deuterium is coupled with DNA mutation and subsequent DNA damage. Deuterium affects the shape of molecules, including the shape of enzymes—many of which are involved in DNA synthesis and repair. The presence of deuterium in these enzymes slows DNA replication, it causes errors in transcription, and it hinders DNA repair.
Deuterium also has an effect on biological processes through the mechanism of hydrogen bonding. The bonds created by deuterium are stronger than normal hydrogen bonds. Tighter deuterium bonding stiffens proteins and requires more energy to break during metabolic reactions. Hydrogen bonds play a major role in DNA structure and are responsible for its helical shape. The class of enzymes and proteins that play a role in DNA replication and repair make extensive use of hydrogen bonds—another reason deuterium can have negative effects on DNA.
Deuterium also interferes with normal proton movement in any proton channel—including the channels involved in ATP (energy) production. Its presence causes the mechanism to “stutter” reducing efficiency. With normal concentrations of deuterium, the “stutter” happens about once every 15 seconds in every proton channel. Multiplied by the millions of proton channels in a living organism, this approaches significant proportions. Given these affects (and others), deuterium is now thought to play an important role for many biological organisms.
What is deuterium-depleted water?
All natural water contains deuterium. Most water contains about 150 ppm. Water with a concentration less than 140 ppm is considered deuterium-depleted. According to clinical work conducted in Hungary, Japan and Russia, even this seemingly small reduction in deuterium may influence a variety of health parameters.
Deuterium and Aging
The most widely accepted theory on aging supposes that the aging process is correlated with a gradual accumulation of errors in DNA. According to Kirk Goodall, a senior member of the technical staff with NASA, the number of irreversible errors in the DNA sequence is directly influenced, by deuterium. The lower the deuterium concentration, the lower the frequency of the irreversible errors in DNA structures. The most recent research reveals that the body’s ability to get rid of deuterium decreases with age; weight gain, illness and lack of quality sleep are also factors.
Biological effects of deuterium-depleted water (DDW)
Since water is a major source of hydrogen, and since most living organisms are 50 – 75% water (by weight), scientists have begun to investigate the effects of deuterium-depleted water—water with a reduced amount of deuterium. Discoveries in the last fifteen years have been groundbreaking. The biological effects of deuterium-depleted water (DDW), sometimes referred to as “light” water, have been highlighted in dozens of studies. Experiments on plants show a general increase in growth and productivity—up to 200%. Experiments with chickens lead to a 50% decrease in mortality and a near doubling in egg production. Experiments with mice revealed increased life expectancy and an increase in sexual activity. Years of research and clinical trials on humans in Hungary by Dr. Gábor Somlyai and his colleges have identified effects of DDW. His book, Defeating Cancer: The Biological Effect of Deuterium Depletion, chronicles the work.
Natural deuterium depletion
Since evaporation favors hydrogen over the heavier deuterium, water vapor is lower in deuterium. (Deuterium evaporates last and condenses first.) In areas where there is a greater degree of evaporation (equator and deserts) the deuterium content of the surface water is high. On the other hand, where there is less evaporation (polar regions and mountains) the deuterium concentration of the surface water is lower. Natural deuterium concentration depends on a number of factors:
- Temperature/Season— Water in cold climates contains less deuterium than water in warmer climates. Winter precipitation contains less deuterium than summer precipitation.
- Water source (fresh vs. ocean)—Oceans contain more deuterium than fresh water. The deuterium concentration in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean remains fairly constant at 156 ppm. Polar oceans have a much lower concentration.
- Altitude—Water at high altitudes has less deuterium. Water from the Rocky mountains in Western United States has been measured with 136 ppm deuterium.
- Distance from coastline—Heavier water precipitates first so the surface water along western coastlines contains more deuterium than inland areas.
- Distance from the equator—Equatorial waters contain more deuterium than water at the poles. Water from Antarctic ice measures 90 ppm deuterium and water beneath the Sahara desert measures 180 ppm deuterium.
Organisms in various parts of the world tend to have deuterium concentrations comparable to the water in the area. However, both plants and animals maintain a lower deuterium concentration than the surrounding surface water. This indicates that organisms have a preference for a deuterium-depleted status. In fact, the water produced in the body (referred to as metabolic water) is deuterium depleted.