You may have heard various health claims about alkaline water. Some say it can help slow the aging process, regulate your body’s pH level, and prevent chronic diseases like cancer. But what exactly is alkaline water, and why all the hype?
What is alkaline water?
The “alkaline” in alkaline water refers to its pH level. The pH level is a number that measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is on a scale of 0 to 14. For example, something with a pH of 1 would be very acidic and something with a pH of 13 would be very alkaline.
Alkaline water has a higher pH level than regular drinking water. Because of this, some advocates of alkaline water believe it can neutralize the acid in your body.
Normal drinking water generally has a neutral pH of 7. Alkaline water typically has a pH of 8 or 9. However, pH alone isn’t enough to impart substantial alkalinity to water.
Alkaline water must also contain alkaline minerals and negative oxidation reduction potential (ORP). ORP is the ability of water to act as a pro- or antioxidant. The more negative the ORP value, the more antioxidizing it is.
Rainwater’s pH is slightly below neutral, because there is carbon dioxide from the air, and this increases acidity.
▪️Acidic substances have a pH of below 7.0, down to zero. The pH of vinegar is around pH 3, lemon juice around pH 2, and battery acid around pH 1.
▪️Alkaline substances have a pH up to 14. Baking soda’s pH is between pH 8 and 9, and milk of magnesia is between pH 10 and 11.
Water can be high or low in pH, but if it is too high or too low, it can have adverse effects.
Water that is too alkaline has a bitter taste. It can cause deposits that encrust pipes and appliances. Highly acidic water may corrode metals or even dissolve them.
According to the Mayo Clinic, regular water is best for most people. They state that there is no scientific evidence that fully verifies the claims made by supporters of alkaline water.
However, there are a few studies that suggest alkaline water might be helpful for certain conditions.
For example, a 2012 study found that drinking naturally carbonated artesian-well alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 may help deactivate pepsin, the main enzyme that causes acid reflux.
Another study suggested that drinking alkaline ionized water may have benefits for people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
A more recent study that included 100 people found a significant difference in whole blood viscosity after consuming high-pH water compared to regular water after a strenuous workout. Viscosity is the direct measurement of how efficiently blood flows through the vessels.
Those who consumed high-pH water reduced viscosity by 6.3 percent compared to 3.36 percent with standard purified drinking water. This means blood flowed more efficiently with alkaline water. This can increase oxygen delivery throughout out the body.
However, more research is needed beyond these small studies. In particular, research is needed to answer other claims made by alkaline water supporters.
Despite the lack of proven scientific research, proponents of alkaline water still believe in its proposed health benefits.
▪️anti-aging properties (via liquid antioxidants that absorb more quickly into the human body)colon-cleansing properties.
▪️immune system support.
▪️hydration, skin health, and other detoxifying properties.
They also argue that soft drinks, which are notoriously acidic, have very positive ORPs leading to many health problems, while properly ionized and alkalinized waters have highly negative ORPs. Green tea is rich in antioxidants and has a slightly negative ORP.
Alkaline water has become popular in recent years due to a belief that it may benefit health.
1. Bone health and osteoporosis.
Some research has been done on the effects of alkaline intake on bones. A study published in Bone found an effect on bone resorption. Bone resorption is the process where old bone cells are broken down and replaced by new ones.
Less bone resorption and more mineral density result in better bone strength.The authors concluded that “a bicarbonate- and calcium-rich alkali mineral water decreased bone resorption more than a calcium-rich acidic mineral water.”
However, this was a small effect.The scientists called for more research, to see if the benefit of less bone resorption was long-term and could improve bone mineral density.
A review of the effects of alkalis on cancer was published by Dr. Tanis Fenton and colleagues in the journal BMJ Open.
The review assessed thousands of studies, but the authors found only one proper, randomized test of acid in the diet and cancer of the urinary bladder.
They found no studies about alkaline water and cancer in humans.
One study has suggested that an alkaline diet, but not specifically alkaline water, may enhance the action of some chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer.
3. Acid reflux.
Acid reflux disease is when the contents of the stomach, which are acidic, splash back up the food pipe.
Acid reflux that keeps happening for a long time can cause damage and a disease known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
It found that alkaline water at pH 8.8 stops an enzyme that is connected to reflux disease. It also appeared to reduce the acidity of the stomach contents.The work was done in a laboratory rather than in humans. More research would be needed to support these findings.
Moreover, stomach acid exists for a purpose. It kills bacteria and other pathogens, and it helps our bodies to digest food and absorb nutrients.
4. Blood pressure and diabetes.
Scientists in Shanghai found that 3 to 6 months after drinking alkaline water, people with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high blood lipids had lower measures in each of these factors.
In 2016, researchers found that a high-pH electrolyte water reduced blood viscosity in 100 adults, after exercising. This may help reduce cardiovascular strain due to dehydration.
However, the scientists point out that participants had different measures of whole blood viscosity at the outset, which could have affected the results.
It is worth noting that the study was sponsored by Essentia Water, who also provided the alkaline water used.
Possible side effects and risks of alkaline water. Although alkaline drinking water is considered safe, it may produce negative side effects.
Some examples of negative side effects include the lowering of natural stomach acidity, which helps kill bacteria and expel other undesirable pathogens from entering your bloodstream.
Additionally, an overall excess of alkalinity in the body may cause gastrointestinal issues and skin irritations. Too much alkalinity may also agitate the body’s normal pH, leading to metabolic alkalosis, a condition that may produce the following symptoms:
▪️tingling in the extremities or face.
Alkalosis can also cause a decrease in free calcium in the body, which can affect bone health.
However, the most common cause of hypocalcemia isn’t from drinking alkaline water, but from having an underactive parathyroid gland.
Natural or artificial?
Water that’s naturally alkaline occurs when water passes over rocks — like springs — and picks up minerals, which increase its alkaline level.
However, many people who drink alkaline water buy alkaline water that’s been through a chemical process called electrolysis.
This technique uses a product called an ionizer to raise the pH of regular water. Makers of ionizers say that electricity is used to separate molecules in the water that are more acidic or more alkaline. The acidic water is then funneled out.
Still, some doctors and researchers say these claims aren’t backed by quality research. The water quality of the original source, before ionization, is crucial to ensuring contaminants aren’t present in the drinking water.
Some scientists advise using reverse-osmosis to adequately purify water before connecting an alkaline ionizer, which can raise pH and add minerals.
A study published by the World Health Organization cautions against drinking water with low mineral content, which is created by reverse osmosis, distillation, and other methods (without additional mineralization) on a regular basis.
Recommended daily intake.
As there is no evidence to support the health benefits of alkaline water, there is no recommended amount that improves health.
However, if you wish to start drinking alkaline water, start with a low intake and increase it gradually. This can reduce the corrosive effects of highly alkaline water.
Rena Goldman (30-5-2019), “Alkaline Water: Benefits and Risks”، www.healthline.com
Markus MacGill (6-12-2017), “Is alkaline water good for you?”، www.medicalnewstoday.com