Leave it to water to get the latest wellness treatment. Alkaline water, aka water with an alkaline pH, is supposedly anti-aging, colon cleansing, energy boosting, and then some. But is alkaline water really worth the hype and high price tag?
What Does Alkaline Mean?
The alkalinity of water is measured on a pH scale, which runs from 0 (the most acidic) to 14 (the most alkaline), with seven in the middle as neutral. The pH scale measures hydrogen ions within a solution; an acidic solution contains more free hydrogen ions, while an alkaline solution has fewer free hydrogen ions.
All solutions, including the blood in our body, can be measured by pH. Black coffee and bananas have a pH of five while lemon juice and vinegar have a pH of two, for example.
The blood in the human body has a pH range of 7.35-7.45, and clinically “normal” pH is considered to be 7.4. Our body maintains a normal pH balance through various biological functions including breathing (CO2 expelled from the body releases acid) and through the release of urine.
Does Alkaline Water Have Health Benefits?
Products sold as alkaline water have a pH over seven, while regular water is slightly acid, falling just below neutral on the pH scale.
Promoters of alkaline water claim it can do everything from regulate digestion and improve bone health, to increase energy levels and nutrient absorption, reduce instances of cancer, and more.
Unfortunately, the research on the benefits of alkaline water is lacking.
A 2012 study found that alkaline water might be worth further investigation as a supplement in treating acid reflux, but the research was done in a lab and not on actual humans.
A 2016 review on the association between dietary acid load, alkaline water, and cancer published in BMJ Open found no correlation between consuming alkaline water and reducing risk of cancer.
The review, which assessed thousands of studies, noted, "None of which supported the promotions that suggest alkaline water supports good health."
Even more, the researchers found that drinking alkaline water caused more harm than good including restricting the release of stomach acid, reducing gallbladder emptying, and heart problems.
A 2010 study of 67 postmenopausal women over a span of three months found that “Short term consumption of magnesium bicarbonate supplemented spring water increased serum magnesium and urinary pH in postmenopausal women. There was no effect on bone metabolism or cardiovascular risk factors.”
Do You Need to Drink Alkaline Water?
There’s no doubt that drinking water all day long is beneficial for your health. But does the kind of water you guzzle really matter? Should it be alkaline?
Author, nutritionist, and medical doctor Dr. Bob Arnot says no. “It’s a scam. Your body is designed to adjust to its optimal pH balance no matter what you ingest. For instance, once alkaline water enters your stomach, your body simply pours in greater amounts of acid to neutralize it.”
Dr. Andrew Weil agrees, “The health claims for water ionizers and alkaline water are bogus. Save your money."
"You should consider the fact that alkaline water is common throughout the western states, but to my knowledge, it has not protected anyone from the diseases and disorders that occur elsewhere in the U.S.” he notes.
My solution? Drink plenty of water, eat real food, and don’t worry about the acidity or alkalinity of your body – it regulates itself, just give it what it needs.