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Is Alkaline Water Good for You?

Water is essential for life. Beyond the basic choices of tap or
bottled water, there’s a new kind of designer water hitting the
shelves — alkaline water.

Marketed as a less-acidic alternative to regular water,
alkaline water is claimed to have a number of health benefits.

Supporters claim it can soothe acid reflux, reduce body fat,
support bone health and generally neutralize acid in the
bloodstream.

But does alkaline water merit the hype?

What Is Alkaline Water?

Brunette Choosing Between Tap Water and Bottled Water

Simply put, alkaline water has a slightly higher pH than tap
water.

As a refresher, pH value measures acidity on a scale of 0 to
14, with 0 being completely acidic and 14 being completely
alkaline.

7 is considered neutral. Alkaline water has a pH greater than
7, with some brands advertising a pH of 8, 9 or even higher.

There are two main ways to make alkaline water:

  • Ionization/Electrolysis: Water ionizers
    process tap water, splitting the H20 compound that forms
    water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. By removing some of
    the acidifying hydrogen molecules, the ionizer raises the
    water’s pH.
  • Adding minerals and other alkaline
    ingredients:
    Mineral water, which picks up minerals
    such as potassium and calcium from rocks, can naturally be
    alkaline. Alternatively, alkaline ingredients such as
    bicarbonate can be added.

Bottom Line: Alkaline water is water with a
pH above 7. It can be made by adding electrolytes to water or
by passing water through a water ionizer.

Does the pH of Water Even Matter?

Glass of Soda Water

You might be wondering why the pH of water would even matter.

To answer that, it makes sense to answer a larger question: how
does your diet affect the acid-base balance of your body?

Some people say that certain foods — such as meat, refined
grains, sugar and alcohol — make your body more acidic, while
other foods — like potassium-rich fruits and vegetables — make
it more
alkaline
.

There is some truth to this. When nutrients are broken down
during digestion, certain byproducts are produced. These can be
either acidic or alkaline.

For example, when your body metabolizes protein, it creates
sulfuric acid, which is referred to as a non-volatile acid.
Furthermore, when your body metabolizes potassium, it creates
bicarbonate, an alkaline compound (1).

So at first glance, this seems to support the theory that meat
makes your body more acidic, and vegetables make your body more
alkaline.

But it’s not that simple. These byproducts of metabolism don’t
necessarily have a lasting impact on your body’s pH.

In part, that’s because different parts of your body have
different pHs:

  • Blood: The pH of normal, healthy blood is
    slightly alkaline, between 7.38 and 7.42 (2).
  • Stomach: The stomach is the most acidic area
    of the body, with a pH ranging from 1.35 to 3.5. Acid is
    necessary to digest food (3).
  • Urine: The pH of urine can really vary,
    ranging from 4.6 to 8 (3).

When people talk about food impacting the pH of your body,
they’re generally talking about the pH of your blood.

But here’s the thing — your body tightly regulates the pH of
your blood through your lungs and kidneys.

Whenever there’s too much acid in your blood, your body gets
rid of it through breathing and urination (3).

So while your diet does change the pH of your blood in the
short term, most scientists say it’s not a lasting change.

Bottom Line: Certain foods, particularly
protein, can create acid in your body. However, your body has
a number of mechanisms that keep the pH of your blood within
a narrow, healthy range.

Health Benefits – True or False?

Young Man Drinking Water

There are several claims about alkaline water. Here’s a look at
the science behind each one.

It’s More Hydrating Than Regular Water

One claim is that alkaline water is more hydrating than regular
water.

A small study in 2010 had 38 young, healthy adults drink either
alkaline water with a pH of 10 or regular water for four weeks.

Researchers reported that those who drank the alkaline water
had more alkaline blood and urine and were more hydrated than
those who drank regular water (4).

It’s a promising finding, but since the study was so small,
more research is needed to determine if alkaline water is
really more hydrating.

It Reduces the Risk of Fractures and Osteoporosis

The idea here is that having elevated acid levels over time may
weaken bones by drawing calcium out of the skeleton (5).

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There’s been quite a bit of research in this area, albeit with
mixed results.

Some studies have suggested that alkaline water may benefit
bone health (6, 7, 8).

For example, a 2010 study showed that among women over 75,
those with a lower acid load from their diet and higher
potassium intake had a higher bone density (9).

That study looked at the acid-base balance of the participants’
overall diet, not alkaline water, but it did suggest a benefit
for that population, which is at a high risk of osteoporosis.

Another study had 30 young women eat similar diets and drink
either bicarbonate-rich, alkaline mineral water or non-alkaline
mineral water for four weeks. Those who drank the alkaline
water had lower markers of bone loss than the other group
(10).

However, while these small studies have suggested that alkaline
water might improve markers of bone health, one large study
tells a different story.

Researchers looked at data from 6,800 people and found no
significant link between urine acidity and bone fractures or
density.

They concluded that the acidity of urine, which could possibly
be lowered with alkaline water, didn’t predict the risk of
osteoporosis (11).

It Tames Acid Reflux

If you suffer from acid reflux, alkaline water may help.

Researchers tested alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 and found it
inactivated pepsin, a digestive enzyme that is one of the main
culprits in gastroesophageal reflux disease (12).

So drinking alkaline water could have a similar effect as
taking an antacid.

It Helps You Shed Fat

The theory behind this claim is that your body uses fat cells
to defend itself from acid. By drinking alkaline water, your
body no longer needs protection from fat cells, and you’ll shed
them.

It’s a compelling theory, but there’s only one study that comes
close to addressing it.

The study was conducted in mice that were given high-fat diets.
One group was given alkaline water and the other was given tap
water. The alkaline water group gained significantly less
weight than the tap water group (13).

While it’s exciting to see the effect of alkaline water in
mice, much more research is needed to say whether it could
truly help humans lose weight.

Bottom Line: Several studies have looked
into alkaline water’s health claims. So far, the most
conclusive benefit seems to be for bone health.

Is Alkaline Water Safe? Does It Have Side Effects?

Blue Bottle of Water

Alkaline water is generally considered safe.

The main downside is that it is much more expensive than tap
water, and the expense may not be justified.

Also, it may not be wise to make it your main water choice.

Drinking alkaline water around the clock would be similar to
chomping on antacids throughout the day. The high pH could
neutralize the effect of your stomach acid, causing some
digestive problems.

Bottom Line: Drinking alkaline water doesn’t
seem to adversely affect most people. However, it is more
expensive than tap water.

Where Can You Find Alkaline Water?

You’ll likely find alkaline water in the bottled water section
of your local store.

Here’s a look at the pHs of specific brands of bottled water:

  • Essentia: 9.5 or higher
  • Aqua Hydrate: 9
  • Evamor: 8.8–9.1
  • Real Alkaline Water: 8.0
  • Fiji Water: 7.7

Bottom Line: As alkaline water has gained
popularity, many brands now sell bottled alkaline water.

How to Make Alkaline Water Yourself

Glass of Water and a Teaspoon of Baking Soda

The easiest way to make water alkaline is by adding baking soda
to it.

However, you only need a little bit. Just a 1/2 teaspoon of
baking soda per gallon of water will raise the pH.

Many people also say that lemon water is alkaline, claiming it

becomes alkaline
in your body.

Another way to make alkaline water is to use a home water
ionizer. However, skeptics say that these machines don’t
actually work.

Bottom Line: If you want to try alkaline
water out, the easiest way to make it is to add a little bit
of baking soda to a lot of tap water.

Take Home Message

Drinking any kind of water is good for your health.

In regards to alkaline water, it may provide some benefits —
and likely no major drawbacks. However, there’s just not enough
research to say if it’s worth it.

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