Is alkaline water a healthy option, or are the claims fraudulent?
My grandmother would have laughed at the idea of spending $2-5 for a bottle of water. To her, the idea of wasting money on a plastic bottle of water was a waste of hard-earned cash. In the United States, we have the luxury of plenty of clean water, so bottled water is not needed because nearly every tap can give as much clean water as you need to stay hydrated. In the United States, the convenience of a bottle of water is just that convenience. So what about this alkaline water?
So what is alkaline water? Alkaline water is water that’s less acidic than regular tap water. This means it is rich in alkalizing compounds, including calcium, silica, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonate. Regular tap and bottled water usually have a pH of around 5.5-7.2. Alkaline water has been treated to add minerals and elevated the pH to approximately 8-9. This process is accomplished by either an electrical ionizer or bottled spring water with a higher mineral content naturally.
What started the alkaline water craze? A book by Dr. Robert Young 2017 highlighted alkaline water as being more healthy in a book entitled The pH Miracle. He is not a medical doctor, nor is he a researcher, so I would have preferred not to use the title, Doctor, but out of respect for his degree from a degree mill, I will leave it. His book was what started the inflated claims of health. The claims are based on very limited research that is suspect at best. Believers of alkaline water use sketchy research to back their belief that alkaline water can neutralize the acid in your bloodstream and stomach and help your body metabolize nutrients better, thus leading to better health.
What are the claimed benefits?
- Weight loss: Believers claim alkaline water increases your metabolism, helps you feel full, boosts your energy, improves muscle function, and improves digestive health. The problem with these claims is there is zero proof that alkaline water does this any better than regular tap water. I found zero research to back up their claims.
- Reflux Disease: Believers claim that higher pH neutralizes the acid in your stomach and deactivates stomach enzymes. The problem is that you want these enzymes to digest your
food, and it would take much more water than you drink to deactivate the acid significantly. If you reduce the acid, it might also slow digestion and increase reflux. Two research studies look at this and found very little to back it up. One found that a plant-based diet and alkaline water helped with reflex. This study shows promise, but which helped reflex: the plants or water? A second study looked at the inactivation of stomach enzymes, but it was done in test tubes, and the body reacts differently.
Any health risks of bottled water? Kidney disease or stones might be a reason to avoid it for a very small minority of subjects. Just like with mineral water, some should avoid it. Discuss alkaline water with your medical provider before you consider drinking it if you are a person with a history of kidney disease or stones.
Taste better? I would say this depends on your taste. I have tried several brands, and the flavor varies significantly from brand to brand. I like Essentia’s flavor and would recommend it as significant smoother tasting water with a limited aftertaste. If you like the flavor and it will allow you to drink more water, I can see a significant benefit, but outside of flavor, I see no benefit to alkaline water.
The bottom line: I suspect that the outlandish claims of superior health from alkaline water are a lot of hype and boarding a hoax. It is possible that alkaline water may provide some health benefits, but more and better research is needed. If you like the taste, I suggest that you continue drinking it. Outside of taste, there is insignificant evidence for me to suggest it over regular tap or bottled water, so save your money.
C. Zalvan, S. Hu, B. Greenberg, and J. Geliebter, “A Comparison of Alkaline Water and Mediterranean Diet vs Proton Pump Inhibition for Treatment of Laryngopharyngeal Reflux.,” JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, vol. 143, no. 10, pp. 1023–1029, Oct. 2017. [PubMed]
J. Koufman and N. Johnston, “Potential benefits of pH 8.8 alkaline drinking water as an adjunct in the treatment of reflux disease.,” Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol, vol. 121, no. 7, pp. 431–4, Jul. 2012. [PubMed]
D. Heil, “Acid-base balance and hydration status following consumption of mineral-based alkaline bottled water,” J Int Soc Sports Nutr, vol. 7, p. 29, Sep. 2010. [PMC]