Alkaline water is the opposite of acidic water. It has a higher pH degree than normal water.
Allegations that it has numerous health benefits have helped fuel the popularity of alkaline diets and machine sales that render water alkaline.
One example of these goods is the ionizing machines. This will cost more than $1000.
Yet what scientific evidence lies behind alkaline drinking water? Are there any proven benefits for the health?
What is alkaline water?
Water’s pH is neutral, at about pH 7. This can change chemicals and gases to make it more acidic or more alkaline.
The pH of Rainwater is slightly below neutral, because the air contains carbon dioxide 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 so it can have harmful effects if it is too high or too low.
Water too alkaline has a bitter taste. This may create deposits where pipes and appliances are encrusting. Highly acidic water will corrode or even dissolve the metals.
In recent years, alkaline water has become common due to a perception that it could improve health.
Bone health and osteoporosis
Some research was conducted on the alkaline consumption effects on bones. The effect on bone resorption was noticed in a study published in Bone. Bone resorption is the method of removing old bone cells and replacing them with new ones.
Less resorption of the bone and more abundance of minerals result in improved bone strength.
The authors concluded that “an alkali-mineral water rich in bicarbonate and calcium reduced bone resorption more than a mineral water rich in calcium.”
However, this was a small effect.
The scientists called for further work to see whether there was a long-term benefit from less bone resorption, which could increase bone mineral density.
Another research, published in Nutrition Journal, compared the effect of an acidic diet on osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones, rather than alkaline water.
The authors studied the history to the study and noted a large number of statements made on the internet. Such reports indicated that “alkaline diets and associated resources counteract acidity, help the body control its pH, and thus avoid disease processes.”
The study used high-quality evidence to conclude that no osteoporosis is caused by acid from modern diets. It also concluded that not osteoporosis is avoided by an alkaline diet or by alkaline supplements or salts.
A analysis of studies published in 2012 showed that an alkaline diet resulted in more alkaline urine, and probably less urine calcium.
The researchers did not expect this to represent overall calcium levels, however, and found no evidence that this would enhance the health of the bone or help to prevent osteoporosis.
Dr. Tanis Fenton and colleagues conducted a study of the impact of alkalis on cancer in the journal BMJ Available.
The study reviewed thousands of studies but the authors found only one effective, randomized acid check in the urinary bladder diet and cancer.
They found no studies in humans regarding alkaline water and cancer.
The researchers note: “In our experience, patients with cancer are approached by salespeople who are promoting water alkalinizers as a way to treat their cancer.”
“Despite the promotion of the alkaline diet and alkaline water by the media and salespeople, there is almost no actual research to either support or disprove these ideas.”
One study indicated that an alkaline diet can enhance the action of some chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer, but not specifically alkaline water.
Acid reflux disease occurs when stomach contents, which are acidic, flood the food pipe back up.
Acid reflux that continues to occur for a long time may cause damage and a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
A research published in Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology found that the use of alkaline water may be worth further review as a alternative to other reflux disease therapies.
It has found that alkaline water inhibits an enzyme related to reflux disease at pH 8.8. The acidity of the stomach material also tended to be high.
The research was conducted more in a laboratory than in humans. To support those results, further work would be required.
Stomach acid also exists for a reason. It kills bacteria and other pathogens, and helps digest food and absorb nutrients into our bodies.
Blood pressure and diabetes
Scientists in Shanghai found that in each of those variables, three to six months after drinking alkaline water, people with high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high blood lipids had lower measurements.
Researchers noticed a high-pH electrolyte water in 2016, after exercise, decreased blood viscosity in 100 adults. It may help to decrease cardiovascular pressure from dehydration.
The scientists, however, point out that at the beginning participants had different measurements of whole blood viscosity which may have affected the findings.
It is worth remembering that Essentia Water funded the study which also supplied the alkaline water used.
Recommended daily intake
Since there is no evidence to support the advantages of alkaline water for health, there is no recommended amount to improve safety.
When you want to start drinking alkaline water, however, start with a low intake, and slowly increasing it. That can reduce highly alkaline water’s corrosive effects.
What is the alkaline diet?
According to Fenton’s report, the alkaline diet is being advocated to address “the acid environment that the current diet produces.” It requires more fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer protein consumption.
“Alkaline diet marketing promotes not only a diet but also the sale of related supplements and water alkalinizer machines across virtually every media channel, including blogs, books, and videos,” the authors wrote.
A study conducted in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health concluded that there could be some advantages of an alkaline diet.
The researchers suggest that fruits and vegetables have a negative acid charge that may boost the balance between sodium and potassium, with possible benefits for bone and muscle health. This could help prevent hypertension, strokes, and other chronic diseases.
Children with extreme metabolic acidosis appear to have low growth hormone levels, and this can result in shorter stature. An alkaline diet can help to reduce problems in those who are susceptible to low growth hormones.
An alkaline diet also seems to elevate magnesium in cells. In addition, magnesium helps in activating vitamin D.
Nevertheless, none of these observations directly involve alkaline water.
A research published in 2016 investigated the impact of alkaline water intake on 150 mice over a 3 year period.
Results revealed that people who consumed alkaline water showed signs of improved longevity, in other words, they were less aged and more likely to live longer.
There were no major variations in the studied group’s heart, liver, kidneys, brain, or intestine and no damage occurred, but there were discrepancies in how the mice and their organs ageed.
Does alkaline water promote weight loss?
Alkaline water has demonstrated no benefits to optimal metabolism and wellbeing.
Although it won’t add calories as part of a healthy or controlled diet, there is no evidence supporting alkaline water as a stand-alone cure for weight loss.
Too alkaline drinking water may have adverse effects.
Researchers who looked into the link between alkaline water, an alkaline diet, and cancer said an alkaline diet may be dangerous because it causes people to skip foods that contain essential nutrients.
They concluded that “It’s not acceptable to encourage alkaline diet and alkaline water to the public for cancer prevention or treatment.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that just as corrosive is too much acid, so too much alkali is.
Scientists reported results in 2001 following a study in which rats drank alkaline water of pH 11.2 or pH 12 each year at various stages of life.
The rats had lost weight or experienced delayed growth at the end of the experiment, and female rats had fur which was thin in patches and seemed sluggish. Most of the rats had oral mucosa discolouration.
The study published in the BMJ found that amongst the alkaline water studies they reviewed, “none […] supported the promotions that say good health is supported by alkaline water.”
How to make alkaline drinking water
Machines called ionizers produce alkaline water but they are costly.
Mineral distilled water tends to be acidic, or rather alkaline. Some manufacturers can state their bottled waters at pH level.
Sparkling waters have acidic character. Carbonisation adds carbon dioxide, reducing the pH and increasing acidity.
The alkalinewatersionizers.org website encourages water ionizers. It says that “since ionized water contains so many active molecules of hydrogen, it can act as a powerful antioxidant that seeks and kills free radicals.”
However, the site also stresses the message:
“You must realize that there are no benefits to drinking alkaline water.”
It is only the ionizing, they say, that brings the benefits, but little to no published resea is accessible.
It is only the ionizing, they claim, that brings the benefits, but little to no work has been conducted in support of ionized water for safety.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Clinic urges people to drink water in their post, “Alkaline Water: Don’t believe the marketing hype,” but make it plain water, because too much acidity or too much alkalinity can cause problems.
They point out that the human body is geared towards finding its own balance.
People will think carefully about whether investment in costly equipment that is unlikely to make a difference is worthwhile.