Are there any Benefits to Alkaline Water?
The internet is full of claims regarding the remarkable benefits that drinking alkaline water can confer on your health. Many of these claims appear to be made by companies actively pushing expensive ionizers into more and more households and until now, there is nearly no hard scientific evidence that drinking alkaline water has any miraculous health benefits to support these claims.
I must admit that I take more than a passing interest in this subject; my particular interest stems from my location and my rather complex water filtration system. My house sits on a well and the high levels of iron sediment require me to filter the water in several stages. Without boring you with the technicalities, the final stage of the process sees the water pass through an alkaline mineral cartridge resulting in water with a pH of 7.8 or 7.9 which is still lower than the level of pH recommended by advocates of alkaline water. While I am certainly no expert on the health consequences of drinking alkaline water, drinking water at this level over a period of 8 or so years has had no detrimental effects on myself or the family but neither have there been any obvious health benefits.
Acidity levels are measured in terms of pH; pure water has a neutral pH very close to 7. Solutions with a pH level lower 7 are acidic while those with pH above 7 are considered to be alkaline. At the extreme ends of the pH spectrum, battery acid has a pH of 1, lemon is pH 2 and on the alkaline side of the scale, lye sits at the top with a pH value of about 13.
Supporters of drinking alkaline water typically state that a pH value of 8.4 or above has the most positive health effects.
In its ‘Guidelines for drinking water quality’ document, the World Health Organization seems more concerned with the welfare of your piping than your health. It states that the pH levels of water have no direct impact on water consumers but recommend that water is in the pH range of 6.5 to 8.0 but only to protect your pipes from corrosion.
Given the lack of any guidelines or solid scientific research backing up the health claims, is the trend towards drinking alkaline water merely a fad and a clever marketing exercise by the companies most likely to prosper from it?
Health Benefit Claims of Alkaline Water
The typical modern western diet has made our bodies more acidic than they were in the past. Too much acid in the system can weaken our immunity system and lead to numerous health issues such as osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diarrhea. The claims being made are that drinking alkaline water will counteract the levels of acid in our body helping to protect us against the detrimental effects of high acid levels.
Those advocating drinking alkaline water over regular tap water make some fairly lofty claims which include the following.
1. Antioxidant Properties
Alkaline water possesses antioxidant properties. We all know that antioxidants are good for your health; they work by neutralizing the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals are known to damage cells, cause you to age prematurely, negatively affect your appearance and lead to a variety of serious health conditions. The antioxidant properties of alkaline water are particularly effective because they are absorbed very quickly into the system as they are present in a liquid. The antioxidant properties present in alkaline water protects against agent and certain diseases like cancer. Some claims have been made that alkaline water is able to destroy and inhibit the development of cancerous cells.
While there is no conclusive evidence either way, some studies do suggest that alkaline water is antioxidant and has the potential to prevent cell damage in combination with other antioxidants.
Drinking alkaline ionized water might help to prevent diabetes and even reverse it. The claim is that alkaline water improved glucose levels and tolerance in patients with types 1 and 2 diabetes. There is evidence that drinking alkaline water reduces glucose levels and also overall cholesterol and triglyceride.
3. Constipation and Cleaning the Colon
Another claim is that alkaline water helps to flush the toxins from your colon and other vital organs. It effectively removes any build-up of fecal matter in the colon before it can become harmful. Drinking alkaline water on a daily basis will prevent constipation as well as maintaining your overall body health making you less susceptible to common illnesses like colds, flu and stomach complaints.
4. Physical Appearance
Not only does drinking alkaline water help to stave off sickness but it can also make you look better. Advocates claim that drinking alkaline water rejuvenates your skin and helps to moisturize and hydrate it. Alkaline water improves your skin’s elasticity and also detoxifies it resulting in smoother, shinier looking skin.
As well as benefitting the skin, it is claimed that alkaline water will act as an appetite suppressant and since it contains no calories is an effective ingredient of a weight loss plan.
5. Injury Prevention and Bone Health
Alkaline water proponents claim that it can help you to recover from injury and contribute to healthy joints and bones. It is an effective weapon against degenerative bone diseases like osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
6. Improves Hydration
When compared to regular water, alkaline water improves hydration for consumers as a result of smaller molecule clusters. These smaller groups of molecules which alkaline water consists of are more easily and quickly absorbed into the body.
This sounds slightly far-fetched and many experts have declared that the claims of smaller molecule clusters in ionized water are bogus.
The claims made above are impressive, but are they actually grounded in science?
Up to this point, there is virtually no scientific data to support any of them. Research on the effects of alkaline water on humans is minimal though we know it can be very damaging to animals and plant life. Research has shown that alkaline water affects the ability of a plant to get nutrients from soil while fish exposed to alkaline water exhibited signs of stress which sometimes proved fatal.
With regard to research on alkaline levels in humans, there is very little available and what research exists is nowhere near being conclusive. The key is probably to maintain some sort of common sense based balance in that water which is too far on both sides of the pH scale is likely to have a negative impact on your health. It has even been suggested that drinking alkaline water on a regular basis might affect your stomach’s ability to effectively digest food which could result in stomach ulcers.
At the moment it would seem that many of the claims made by the alkaline ionized water industry are tenuous at best. Many health experts state that the human body needs no help in retaining its pH balance and that your body will make the necessary pH adjustments by itself. I think it is worth exercising caution and doing your own research before getting overly sold on the advertising spiel.
Spending a small fortune on an electrical ionizer might not be the most prudent way to spend your hard earned cash.