Alkaline Water: Should We All Be Drinking This Apparent Cure-all?

Alkaline Water: Should We All Be Drinking This Apparent Cure-all?

Every time I go to the grocery store or run inside the gas station for a drink, I see some new, fancy-looking water. First, it was sparkling water. Then it was electrolyte water. Then it was water in compostable boxes or recyclable cans. Then it was dozens of different flavors of plain and sparkling water. I’ve even seen caffeinated water and activated charcoal water (disgusting).

The list of ways that brands try to sell us water is outrageous, and it seems to never end. Most recently, alkaline water has been added to that list. You’ve probably seen the claims about how its detoxification properties help with energy and weight loss, or its ability to neutralize your blood helps to keep you healthy.

Before you spend $4 on a bottle of seemingly magical alkaline water, let’s talk about what it is and what it can do.

(Spoiler: It can’t do much. Let’s talk about why!)

Brands claim that alkaline water’s detoxification properties help with energy and weight loss, and its ability to neutralize your blood helps to keep you healthy.

 

What Is Alkaline Water?

Acid and alkaline are two terms that are used to describe the pH of something. Anything with a pH below 7 is acidic, and anything with a pH above 7 is basic, or alkaline. (Those terms are interchangeable, but it sounds way less cool to brand it as “basic water,” so they went with alkaline.) A pH of 7 is neutral, and pure water has a pH of 7.

So, alkaline water is any type of water that has a pH above 7. When you purchase bottled water that’s listed as alkaline, the manufacturers have raised the water’s pH either with minerals or a chemical process called electrolysis that involves special machinery.

According to EPA recommendations, tap water should fall in the 6.5 (slightly acidic) to 8.5 (slightly alkaline) range. However, in most places, tap water pH tends to be more acidic with a pH between 4.3-5.3.

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For the most part, you’ll know if you’re drinking alkaline water. Brands market their alkaline waters very specifically. The only exception to this is if you drink tap water in a region that has hard water. Hard water has a high concentration of minerals that raise the pH to about 8.5 or higher, and you can usually recognize it by its bitter taste (and the havoc it wreaks on your hair).

 

Why Is Alkaline Water So Popular?

Much like every other health fad that we’ve experienced for the past 20 years, alkaline water has become popular thanks to the Internet. Health gurus, social media influencers, and wellness brands have all jumped on a few studies that have been done that tentatively show possible positive benefits to drinking alkaline water.

alkaline water

Much of the benefit that people cite is related to the fact that alkaline water has a higher pH than tap water, so it can “neutralize” the acid in your bloodstream. There are other claims that it has anti-aging, detox, and weight loss benefits. Some people even go so far as to say it can help with bone density and cancer resistance.

 

A Quick Look at the Research Behind Alkaline Water (or Lack Thereof)

Most of the studies that have been done on alkaline water have produced shaky results that don’t seem to hold up to further scientific review.

Below are a few selling points that I’m going to debunk (sorry).

Most of the studies that have been done on alkaline water have produced shaky results that don’t seem to hold up to further scientific review.

1. It helps with acid reflux

In a 2012 study, researchers found that alkaline water with a pH of at least 8.8 could deactivate the digestive enzyme pepsin, which is the major culprit of the damage that comes from serious acid reflux.

It’s important to mention that this study was done in vitro, which means that it was performed in test tubes in a lab rather than on actual humans, so the results might be different in a real-life setting. In fact, they almost certainly would be different.

Why? I’m glad you asked!

Your stomach acid is crazy strong (It usually has a pH of around 2, which is the same as battery acid), so even if the water is alkaline going into your mouth, by the time it reaches your stomach, it’s not going to be alkaline anymore.

In short, since this study has never been done in a clinical setting with real people, I wouldn’t put much faith in it.

weightlifting for women

2. It helps maintain bone density

The claims that alkaline water helps to reduce bone loss come from this 2008 study that was done on female dieticians.

While the alkaline water group did seem to show slightly less overall bone loss, there were only 30 participants, and the study was only a month long, so there’s no way to know if there are any long-term benefits. Since then, a meta-analysis has found that an acidic or alkaline diet doesn’t affect osteoporosis at all.

In short, alkaline water won’t help with bone loss.

3. It helps lower blood pressure

In this 2016 study, researchers gave 100 participants high-pH electrolyte water after exercising. They found that the water reduced blood viscosity, which means that it helped their blood flow more efficiently (aka it shortened recovery and rehydration time).

alkaline water

While that sounds great, the study was funded and supplied by an alkaline water company, and the specific data materials are confidential. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the results are meaningless, but it does make them less convincing, especially since they haven’t been replicated.

4. It helps neutralize your blood, cure cancer, and make you look younger!

Claims regarding anti-aging, cancer, and “neutralizing” your blood can pretty much be ignored. (Shocking, I know.)

First of all, your body does a fantastic job of keeping your blood pH around 7.4, which is where it should be. Even the smallest deviation from a correct pH range of 7.35-7.45 triggers an automatic stabilization response from your body.

If your body ever has issues with stabilizing your blood pH, that’s a serious medical problem that needs to be treated by a doctor, not a more alkaline diet. You don’t need to neutralize your blood. Trust me.

Your body does a fantastic job of keeping your blood pH where it should be. Even the smallest deviation triggers an automatic stabilization response from your body.

The claims about cancer are not based on any scientific research that specifically studies alkaline water and humans. Please don’t try to treat cancer with anything except real medicine. People who try to sell you on alternative methods for curing, treating, or preventing cancer are scummy, and you should NOT take their advice.

Finally, in regards to anti-aging, there are much better ways to look and feel younger, like eating a nutritious diet, moving your body as much as you can, wearing sunscreen, and establishing a great skincare routine. Alkaline water isn’t going to magically “detox” your body and make you feel rejuvenated. That’s what your kidneys are for.

 

The Bottom Line on Alkaline Water

Ultimately, as long as you’re not ONLY drinking alkaline water, it’s unlikely to cause any harm. It might taste weird (more alkaline water often has a slightly bitter taste), and it definitely costs more, but it’s not inherently harmful as far as researchers know.

I recommend saving your money and just drinking regular water. I’ll be glad when the alkaline water fad passes!

 

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