Is alkaline water really better for you?

By Christy Brissette

Global sales of alkaline water are expected to reach $1 billion this year, according to food and beverage consultancy Zenith Global.

But there’s no solid evidence that these beverages boost energy, strengthen bones or fight cancer, or that alkaline water is any better than other types of bottled water — or even tap water.

What exactly is alkaline water?

The terms acid and alkaline refer to the pH level of a water-based solution. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with 0 being completely acidic, 14 being totally alkaline and 7 being neutral. Lemon juice has a pH of 2, while baking soda has a pH of 9. Water, including tap water, has a pH of 7, or neutral.

Alkaline water has a pH of up to 8 or 9. It can be naturally alkaline, for example, spring water can contain minerals that make it more alkaline, or it can be ionized to make it that way.

A healthy body does an excellent job of keeping its pH levels within a narrow range called acid-base balance.

Alkaline water’s alleged health benefits

Manufacturers claim alkaline water can boost energy or hydration, aid in digestion, or strengthen bones because it neutralizes acid in the body. But, the body does a fine job of neutralizing acid on its own, and these claims are based on flimsy science.

One small study funded by an ionized/alkaline water company found that blood and urine pH increased after participants drank its water for two weeks compared with a control group of people who drank non-mineralized bottled water. The values were still within normal ranges, however, and there isn’t any evidence to suggest that these minor shifts would promote better health.

Can it really help you lose weight quickly?

The researchers also claimed that the alkaline water was more hydrating because the average urine output of the experimental group was lower. But because the fluid intake was self-reported in this study, we don’t know whether the two groups took in the same amounts. As such, we can’t conclude that urinating less was a sign of being more hydrated.

Another study of 100 healthy people funded by an ionized/alkaline water company found that drinking the company’s water after exercising in a hot environment led to a smaller percentage change in a measure of blood viscosity from baseline compared with bottled water.

There haven’t been any research studies demonstrating a protective effect of alkaline water against cancer in humans. And research on alkaline water and longevity has only been conducted on mice, so the findings can’t be generalized to humans.

Claims that alkaline water may help with acid reflux are based on lab research. One study found that alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 deactivates pepsin, a digestive enzyme found in the stomach. What happens in a Petri dish isn’t indicative of what happens in your body, so it’s a stretch to say alkaline water will help with reflux.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has denied the use of claims for health benefits of alkaline water relating to bone health due to insufficient evidence.

Potential drawbacks of ionized and enhanced waters

Ionized or enhanced water isn’t necessarily purified. Make sure the water you drink often is properly filtered and/or from a clean source without contaminants.

Though enhanced water may have some minerals or other nutrients added to it, ionized or processed alkaline water that has been distilled or filtered via reverse osmosis may not contain any minerals, making it less nutritious; the World Health Organization advises against regularly consuming water that has low mineral content because it could negatively affect your digestive system and cause mineral loss. Naturally, alkaline water or spring water are better choices because they typically contain minerals.

(Courtesy: The Washington Post)

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