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Alkaline Water: Saving Grace or Wishful Thinking?

on January 11, 2021

The benefits have been touted high and low, by companies and celebrities alike...but is it all just a bunch of malarkey?

Alkaline Water: Saving Grace or Wishful Thinking?

Alkaline water. You’ve probably heard of it, and you may even have heard it’s healthy. A quick Google search reveals a slew of claims to fame including everything from anti-aging properties and weight loss to boosted immunity and a cure for cancer. Sounds amazing right? But do these supposed “health benefits” really carry any weight? Let’s start with the basics.

Essentially, alkaline water is water with a low level of acidity (or a high pH). This can be a little confusing—it’s more than a little science-y, so stick with us. The pH scale is a measurement of a solution’s hydrogen ions. pH actually stands for “power of hydrogen”, and the scale runs from 0 to 14. If you remember back to your chemistry days, low numbers are more acidic, and high numbers are more alkaline.

7.0 is perfectly neutral.

Anything with a pH over 7 is considered alkaline.

For reference, most tap water in the US is around pH 4 or 5 and most alkaline water is around 8 or 9, but some are as high as 10.

So, alkaline water is less acidic than most normal drinking waters.

Does alkaline water taste different? Not really, but it depends on the person. Some people find alkaline water more bitter than average water and people often describe a certain “thickness” to the water. Everybody has their own preferences, so there are people who prefer alkaline water and others who can’t stand it.

What are the (alleged) benefits? Proponents of alkaline water claim it works its magic through reducing the acidity of the blood. This in turn leads to (again, supposed) outcomes such as a faster metabolism, improved digestion, and increased energy to name a few. In short, alkaline water pushers are selling the idea of neutralizing the body to counteract all of the acidic things we consume on a daily basis.

Luckily for us, our bodies already know how to do this, and we don’t need special water to make it happen. We like how Dr. Joe Schwarcz, the Director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society puts it:

“Even if there were such a thing as an acidic body, and even if this signaled illness, it could not be countered by drinking alkaline water. To “alkalize the body” one would have to alkalize the blood. But our body maintains the pH of the blood between 7 -7.4, which is already alkaline. If you were to alkalize it further, you would not have to worry about illness because you would be dead. Don’t worry, though, about alkaline water killing you. Our stomach is strongly acidic and any base that enters is immediately neutralized. The still acidic contents of the stomach then pass into the intestine where they are neutralized by alkaline secretions from the pancreas. So all of the water we drink ends up being alkaline anyway!”

Are there any risks? There don’t seem to be many health risks associated with drinking alkaline water for people with healthy kidneys. That being said, high pH levels are sometimes linked to skin irritation and stomach problems.

 

“IT'S ALL ABOUT MARKETING, SAID TANIS FENTON, A REGISTERED DIETITIAN AND EPIDEMIOLOGIST AT CUMMING SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY. "THERE IS NO SCIENCE TO BACK IT UP.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/27/well/eat/alkaline-water-health-benefits.html

The only other thing to be aware of is that you’re essentially paying for something that has absolutely zero scientific ground to stand on. And last, but not certainly not least… Is alkaline water better than regular water? While it’s claims to fame are many, there just isn’t enough science to prove them.

So as far as conclusive research goes, NO, alkaline water is not better than regular water. HOWEVER, there’s no doubt that staying hydrated is amazing for your health! So, do something good for your body and the environment and fill up a glass from your tap or grab a climate neutral bottle of Open Water to reap all the benefits of your eight glasses a day!


Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/alkaline-water/faq-20058029

https://www.theguardian.com/global/2018/oct/29/alkaline-water-cure-bs-science-beyonce-tom-brady

https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-is-alkaline-water#1

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/alkaline-water-benefits-risks#benefits

https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/controversial-science-news-quackery/alkaline-water-nonsense

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